To answer anyone who has ever wondered about the world’s data storage capacity, a team of scientists at the University of Southern California made one of the most accurate estimates to date years ago: 295 exabytes, or 295 billion gigabytes. To arrive at this figure, the researchers added together the enormous mass of data stored in 60 different types of technologies, from personal computers, CDs and floppy disks to digital books and newspapers.
The study, which was published in the journal Sciences, also collected other more revealing data on the way in which technology had transformed civilization in the first decade of the 21st century. For example, one of the questions that some IT specialists have been asking in recent years is whether this growth may have any limits or, in other words, if we will run out of storage space.
Experts, however, are optimistic: so far the trend is that as the volume of data requiring storage increases, the capacity and efficiency of storage systems have also increased and optimized. That is why engineers and computer technicians consider that global storage space issues are not foreseeable in the short term (and in the long term the quantum computing can open up new horizons even more efficient).
However, another question is whether certain sectors or groups of users may encounter specific problems. In this sense, the answer seems to be more complex. Finding and allocating storage space is a very specific infrastructural concern and it is much more likely that large technology players will be able to increase the quantity and quality of their storage space by ‘brute force’, to the detriment of other groups with less power and influence.
In this sense, it will be key to observe if the Moore’s Law (which states that approximately every 2 years the number of transistors in a microprocessor doubles, increasing its capacity and reducing its cost) is still applicable in storage infrastructure. The way in which this law is materialized may end up contributing to reinforcing inequalities in the digital ecosystem.
On the other hand, new realities such as blockchain point out some of the trends that will shape the future of the sector. This technology has a number of advantages compared to centralized storage. But it doesn’t seem like the way to go for all sectors, due to the intrinsic downside of blockchain bloating. that is, the processing problems of needing to take into account a large number of decentralized data. However, some solutions, such as those based on peer to peer or less sophisticated systems (which take advantage of storage space and idle CPU capacity) have also proven interesting in the short term to optimize existing space.
Finally, a much more troublesome issue than finding a place to store your data could be searching for and retrieving it. As the volume of data increases, storage capacities will need to increase, as well as tools to handle and retrieve only pertinent information.