December 20, 2008

Terabytes and Terabytes of Data At Home. Petabytes Next.

Depending how old you are, or how early in your life you started using a computer, you can no doubt remember using floppy disks that save data in the kilobytes, hard drives in the megabytes, and squeezing every last byte out of your RAM. With file sizes increasing, and people wanting to store more and more data, not just at the office, but at home, it's not uncommon for people to be amassing hundreds of gigabytes, or even terabytes of data in their homes, for photos, music, television and all their electronic data. With some recent purchases in our home, I'm fairly impressed how much data space we have at our availability - and can't help but wonder what these increasing capacities could mean for the future.

The MacBook Pro I am typing this post on has 200 GB of hard disk space. My wife's MacBook has 80 GB of space, and we have an older MacBook hiding somewhere with its own 30 GB hard drive - assuming it still works. So that gets us to 310 GB right there.

When I purchased my iPhone I also got the Apple Time Capsule, a 500 GB model, racking us up to 810 GB. And in the living room, we have a TiVo HD, with 160 GB hard disk capacity, bringing us to 970 Gigabytes in total.

As of this week, we also just upgraded our old Series 1 TiVo to the new TiVo HD XL, which by XL means a whopping terabyte of disk space, good enough for 150 hours of HD programming, and bringing our running total to 1.97 Terabytes (so far).

Add on to those 1.97 terabytes an older 60 Gigabyte iPod, a 10 Gigabyte iPod, a 16 Gigabyte iPhone, and about 4 iPod Shuffles with a Gigabyte of space each lying around, plus a few digital cameras, and you're easily above 2 terabytes, even when taking into account the fact you'll need 2,048 gigabytes to get there.

The available disk space will absolutely effect my behavior. I won't see any reason to stop taking photos of Matthew and Sarah as they grow older. I don't have any real reason to delete shows from the TiVo I would consider watching again. And I can rest assured knowing that even if I delete a file from my laptop, or that of my wife, that it is backed up on the Time Capsule for later retrieval.

But if I were to take things even further - why not save every voice mail that ever is left on our home phones? Why not make all my calls on Voice Over IP and save every single one for later retrieval? Why not set up video recording so we can watch the kids' every move and just double click to pull up the video in high definition? Why not make a digital copy of every web page, video, and picture I see on the Internet - ever? We're getting to the point that disk space and massive amounts of it are dirt cheap.

Working at a storage company (in the real world), I find myself talking in terabytes and petabytes all the time. Check my about page for more on that. We are living in a world where data and what you do with that data can differentiate your business, and your speed of access to that data, its manipulation and retrieval can set you apart from your rivals. But the terabyte and petabyte advancements have trickled home. I wonder if having massive amounts of storage space can make us better parents, friends and neighbors. It's possible.