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Understanding Data Storage Options: Overview

How much is that?

How much is that?

Data is stored in BITS of information (0s or 1s).  We refer to data storage in terms of bytes.  But, how much are we really talking, when we say...


8 bits in a byte
This is equal to the storage of a single character, such as H.  


1024 bytes in a KB
bits of information
This would provide enough storage for a very short story.

1024 kilobytes in a MB 
bits of information
You could store a small novel in a single megabyte.

1024 megabytes in a GB 
bits of information
Think 75,000 pages of printed text rolling off the library printer.


1024 gigabytes in TB
bits of information
This is equal to 50,000 trees worth of paper!


1024 terabytes in a Petabyte
bits of information
That's 2000 years of continuous music!


1024 PB in a Exabyte
bits of information
That's equal to 100,000 times all printed material stored in the Library of Congress. It's been estimated that 5 exabytes would hold "every word ever spoken" by human beings (since the beginning of time!).

Intrigued?  Check out this comparison of data storage to information for more fun examples.

A Short History of Data Storage

The capacity of computers has changed dramatically in recent history.  The computers our parents and our grandparents had knowledge of or access to when they were teenagers  had smaller storage options and far less processing capacity than even the cell phones we use on a daily basis.

In 1956, IBM introduced a hard drive for business computers that could handle 5 megabytes of data and weighed nearly one ton.   The first hard drives to appear on personal computers in the early 1980s doubled that capacity to 10,000,000, all in a very small package.  Today, consumers can order a PC with as much as 2 terabytes of hard drive storage.   Compare the numbers (in bytes):

5,000,000 to 10,000,000 to 2,000,000,000,000 


Portable storage capacity and size have also changed dramatically.  Early computers used punch cards to store, at best, 121 bytes of information.

Implementation of a single computer program and the data it generated could easily required several boxes of hundreds of cards. The introduction of the 8 inch (and later 5.5 inch) floppy disk allowed portability, allowing for 79.7 KB (79,000) of storage and more.

The 3.5 inch floppy (encased in a hard, not floppy, shell) increased capacity of a single disk up to 1.44 MB (1,440,000) and became a standard in portable computing through out the 1980s and 1990s.  

Optical disks came into wide use in the early 1980s, primarily to distribute music and computer programs.  Writable CD's didn't come into use as portable storage until late in the decade, when computer manufacturers began to include optical readers/writers alongside the more standard floppy drive.  

The standard CD holds approximately 700 MB of data (7,000,000).  The capacity of the 4.7 gigabyte DVD (4,700,000,000) and the 25 gigabyte BluRay (25,000,000,000), along with the low cost of production, have made and kept optical disks a standard for data storage and exchange. 

The shrinking size and the dropping cost of solid state memory options is once again changing our data storage habits.  Consumers today are likely to own a USB flash drive, with common storage capacities of up to16 gibabytes (64 GB possible).  

And, with 24/7 connectivity, more users are turning to online storage solutions. GoogleDrive, DropBox, iCloud and other data storage warehouses are equipped with massive storage matrices accessible from any computer through the internet. Access to this "cloud" storage depends soley on the user's connectivity and device capabilities.

Your Data Storage Options

 You have limited storage space on the H:drive of the school network.

You can store up to 30 GB of resources in Google Drive using your Monona Grove account.

You can purchase a 16GB flash drive for around $10.  Larger portable drives are available.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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