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This is the seventh time IDC has conducted the Digital Universe study for EMC. It was—and still is—the only study to estimate and forecast the amount of digital data created annually. It has used the same methodology since its inception, allowing the size of the Digital Universe to be traced all the way back to 2005, when “only” 132 exabytes of data were created and replicated.

Our basic approach of sizing the Digital Universe is to:

  • Develop a forecast for the installed base of any of 40 or so classes of device or application that could capture or create digital information.
  • Estimate how many units of information—files, images, songs, minutes of video, calls per capita, packets of information—were created in a year.
  • Convert the units of information to megabytes using assumptions about resolutions, compression, and usage.
  • Estimate the number of times a unit of information might be replicated, either to share or store. Much of this information is part of IDC’s ongoing research.

Available Storage

IDC routinely tracks the terabytes of disk storage shipped each year by region, media, and application.

To determine available storage on hard drives, IDC storage analysts estimated storage utilization on capacity shipped in previous years and added that to the current-year shipments.

For optical and nonvolatile flash memory, we developed installed capacity ratios per device and algorithms to calculate capacity utilization and overwriting. In optical, we found there was much more prerecorded storage than storage that was overwritten by users.