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This chapter is from the book

How Much Do I Have?

You have a lot of data—much more than you realize. But to help you understand the magnitude, we’re going to put that statement into context. Let’s first break down how digital assets are measured: You can count how many items there are, and you can see how much computer disk space they take up—their file size.

File Sizes

The more content you have in a computer file, the larger it is. I’m sure you’ve experienced file-size limits when trying to email large files. There is a range of file sizes (see the list below), but it makes more sense to talk about size in context of things you create, like documents, photos, and videos.

Let’s say that you have an 8,000-page document. That’s roughly the length of this book 40 times over. That may seem like a lot, but in terms of file size it’s about 80 megabytes, without any images.

As a comparison, 80 megabytes is about the same file size as 40 5-megapixel photographs. You can fit roughly 325 of those on a CD.

Let’s make one more comparison. The iPhone 4 creates HD video (720p) that will consume 1.3 megabytes every second. This means that a minute of video is the equivalent of 40 5-megapixel photos.

Your Footprint

You’re probably thinking, what do these files sizes have to do with my digital collection? As we said above, it’s the unit of measure for computer file size. So let’s figure out the potential size of your digital collection.

In 2008 Google reported that it was processing 20 petabytes of user-generated content each day. Stephen Bulfer, CEO and founder of LifeCellar.com, estimates that we’ll each create 88 gigabytes in a lifetime.

As of this writing in 2010, there are 1.75 billion active Internet users worldwide. Based upon Google’s assertion, Bulfer calculates that each user generates 3.3 megabytes daily. With a 75-year average lifespan, that’s 88 gigabytes in a lifetime. That number contains only the things you create and share online—that estimate could still be low. Considering that the content we create grows more sophisticated daily and thus file sizes are soaring higher, we can only predict that the amount of content will continue to grow.

It’s difficult to quantify exactly how much data we’re talking about, but consider these facts: YouTube has reported that 24 hours of video are uploaded to their servers every minute. And the Radicati Group has projected that an average of 247 billion emails are sent per day. We could go on and on naming big numbers, but you get the idea—we’re creating a lot of data.

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