Data doubles in three years

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by information overload lately, you may not be alone. The amount of new information stored on various media such as hard drives has doubled in the past three years, to five exabytes of new information produced in 2002, according to a study released late last month by the University of California, Berkeley.

That’s exabytes, as in one byte with 18 zeros behind it, six zeros more than a terabyte. The amount of information put into storage in 2002, five exabytes, was equal to the contents of a half a million new libraries, each containing a digitized version of the print collection of the entire U.S. Library of Congress, according to the study by professors Peter Lyman and Hal Varian of the UC Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems. The professors estimated that between two and three exabytes of information was generated in 1999.

Most of that data – 92 per cent of it – was stored on magnetic media, primarily hard drives, the study estimates.

The study, a follow-up to a 2000 study by UC Berkeley, doesn’t dwell on how people and companies process these massive amounts of information coming at them, Lyman said, but his next goal is to produce a study examining that very issue. “I’m going to spend the next year on the consumption of information,” he said. “How do people make sense of this? How do they cope?”

The current study doesn’t address the quality of information and how people choose good information sources, he added. Significant differences exist in the “accessibility and usability and trustworthiness” of information between various sources, Lyman noted.

– IDG News Service