How much information is 350 terabytes?

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How much information is 350 terabytes? How many double-spaced pages of text would it take to hold all that information? 188 billion pages! This assumes 1-byte ASCII text, and 2048 bytes per page. But there is a problem with this answer -- we can't assume ASCII. Modern information is heavily formatted, indexed and "rich" (meaning it often contains video and audio). 350 TB is 92 million MP3 songs, half a million music CDs, 40,000 DVD...

movies, or five years of HDTV. And most databases are optimized for performance, not space utilization, so it is common to see a 10:1 ratio of database to raw text space. So your 350 TB might hold just 18 billion pages of text.

By the way, 18 billion sheets of paper would still weigh 451,000 tons and cost 188 million dollars at Staples (though they might give you a volume discount!) And you had better bring along 18,000 semi trucks to carry it all...

This was first published in August 2004

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