Digital output this year would fill 115bn Apple iPads

Now how to make sense and use of this data?

The amount of digital data being produced globally this year would be enough to fill 115 billion 16GB Apple iPads, according to a new study from IDC.

The volume, 1.8 Zettabytes of data, is up from last year's count, 1.2 Zettabytes, which was the equivalent of 75 billion fully-loaded iPads. One Zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes.

"It's growing faster than people can get a handle on it," said Stephen Minton, analyst at IDC, which conducted the EMC-sponsored Digital Universe study, 'Extracting Value from Chaos'.

The challenges presented by the data growth was "just as intense, if not more so" than last year, he said.

However, as well as the challenges, Minton believes that the data boom also creates opportunities for businesses, particularly in the areas of analytics and business intelligence. The study found that while individuals generate 75 percent of the information, businesses have some liability for 80 percent of the information at some point in its digital life.

"The real opportunity is what people do with this data. Figuring out what is the value of different pieces of information and how to extract that value," Minton said.

The driver for this, Minton said, is the age-old problem of IT having to do more with less.

"Businesses have fewer resources to deal with this. They have fewer people to manage this data, and these employees need to get smarter with dealing with data."

At present, most of the data being created is being generated by PCs, mobile phones and tablet devices. Minton said that the balance will change in the future.

"The biggest proportion of the digital data being created is from visual imaging, for example, surveillance cameras and digital TV. In four or five years from now, more data will come from embedded devices than computers," he said.

Embedded devices refers to technology such as cars fitted with intelligent systems that enable them to communicate with road signs.

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