Data. An all-encompassing term that had its definition stretched out to the gills, ever since the internet became a thing. Every single piece of data found in phones, servers, computers, and even machines would be hard to put a number on. However, there are units of measurement that one could use to try and comprehend this.
Bytes, what are they?
Firstly, let’s talk about the unit of measurement that data uses. In the digital information space, data is measured by bytes. Such bytes have bigger denotations, just like other measures of information in this world. For example, meters have kilometers; grams have kilograms. As an example, a single Spotify song played in high definition is at an average of 9,400,000 bytes or 9.4 megabytes. A single, high definition 1-hour movie runs for about 1.2-1.4 gigabytes, which equates to around 1.4 billion bytes.
Sounds pretty big right? Compare that to millions of songs, tens of thousands of movies, and countless other forms of data, one could say that this world needs something a little bit bigger than bytes and gigabytes.
The Big Hitters
Units of measurement such as bytes come easy. A kilobyte is a thousand bytes. A megabyte is a thousand kilobytes, and a gigabyte is a thousand megabytes; and so on and so forth. This exponential increase in units helps people comprehend and track better how much data they’re using, downloading, and/or interacting with. Let’s go to the big hitters. A terabyte is usually used for denoting storage devices, such as hard drives and small-scale data servers. As with the pattern, a terabyte is a thousand gigabytes. Higher than that, a petabyte is a thousand terabytes; which is usually employed in measuring the size of data centers.
A single petabyte could hold 209,715,100 songs. Clocking in at 3 minutes and 30 seconds as an average playtime per song, that’s 734,002,850 minutes or almost 1,400 years of playback time! We’re not even close, there are still 2 more degrees of units as we reach our topic of discussion; the yottabyte.
The Exabyte and Zettabyte
Feeling dizzy with the numbers? We still have more to go! An Exabyte is a thousand petabytes or a billion gigabytes. Putting it into perspective; if a gigabyte is the size of the Earth, then an exabyte would be the size of the sun! If you have recorded every single word mankind has spoken and turned it into data, that would only equate to about 5 exabytes. That’s every language, for 400 generations straight, and 6,000 years of talking; it’s a total of 5 exabytes.
A Zettabyte is a thousand exabytes. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes, or one sextillion. Perhaps a better visualization would be the internet. Imagine every video, photo, music, and text that is uploaded, downloaded, and sent by every person in the whole world. Imagine how exponentially quick the internet grows, and how much data has ever crossed the web. Well, that only equates to barely one zettabyte.
Enter: The Yottabyte
Now we arrive at the topic of discussion. As per usual, a yottabyte is a thousand zettabytes. Keep in mind that this is now a theoretical number, as there is not yet a functional application of such a unit. The Yottabyte is the largest ever unit of measurement that is recognized by the International System of Units. A single yottabyte is approximately one million trillion bytes. In number form, that would be 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. In comprehending that number, imagine that a single byte would be equivalent to 1 mile. If you were to walk a total of 1 yottabyte, you would leave the observable universe. For a better comparison, let’s go back to the zettabytes. Remember the internet? Well, if you equate that and every single piece of data ever recorded and created by mankind in all of the conceived time, that’s only 33 zettabytes. 33 zettabytes are literally only 3% of a yottabyte.
That is how large a single yottabyte would be. Just thinking about it will make you dizzy!
What Is a Yottabyte and How Big Is It? (backblaze.com)
Visualized: a zettabyte | Engadget
What is an Exabyte? | Teradata