"As data storage becomes increasingly important, the need to understand your storage options is critical for future IT planning. There are several factors you should consider when selecting a data storage provider such as storage type, security and cost. Taking into consideration the amount of space and type of storage deployed day one is critical for protecting mission critical files and for disaster recovery planning. We live in an era where technology, analytic's, and big data are growing exponentially. Understanding the amount of data storage space is a task in itself. Differentiating between Megabytes (MB), Gigabytes (GB), Petabytes (PB) and all of the other data measurements is easier said than done. To make it easier, visualizing the definition in a practical application can help.
What is a Bit (b)?
A bit is like an atom, it is the smallest unit of data. A bit transmits either a 0 or 1. Think of it as an on or off switch. This is how computers and other electronic devices communicate. A bit by itself is to small to be of use. However, when you combine 8 bits, you get a Byte. It's important to remember that bits are used for transmission, transfer, or communication of data. Bytes represent the amount of storage. Think of Bytes in terms of your computer hard drive and bits in terms of transferring files over the Internet.
We will next discuss how bits are converted to Bytes and how Bytes apply to data storage. Keep this equation in mind when converting bits (b) to Bytes (B). They are not the same so make sure that you understand that the transfer of Megabits per second (Mbps) is different than Megabytes per second (MB/s). This makes a huge difference in uploading and downloading files. There are many that get confused in thinking that the transfer of Bytes per second is equal to the transfer of bits per second.
What is a Byte (B)?
Starting with the basics, a Byte (B) is usually defined as the basic unit of measurement for data. A Byte is equal to a grouping of 8 bits as mentioned above. For example, 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 clearly represents a sequence of 8 bits or 1 Byte. One Byte can store one alphanumeric character such as '˜A', '˜B' or '˜C'. In this case, '˜A' would be equal to 1 Byte. Think about how
many bits and Bytes might exist on a Word document. How many bits are there in a single 2,000 character document?
**Quick Test: Let's say that there are 2,000 characters in the document.
Answer: In this example, 2,000 characters x 1 Byte per character = 2,000 Bytes x 8 bits =16,000 bits. Sounds like a lot but I assure you it is not.
What are Kilobytes (KB), Megabytes (MB) and Gigabytes (GB)?
When talking about data storage, the measurements that are most frequently used are Kilobytes (KB), Megabytes (MB) and Gigabytes (GB). Going in order by space, we will start with a Kilobyte (KB). A Kilobyte is equal to 1,000 Bytes. Kilobytes are typically used in storage media, small memory devices, and software. To visualize a Kilobyte, think of a very low resolution photograph which is typically around 100 KB.
**Quick Test: Can you convert this 100 KB photograph to bits? We know that 1 KB = 1,000 Bytes and 1 Byte = 8 bits.
Answer: 100 KB x 1,000 = 100,000 Bytes x 8 bits = 800,000 bits. That Word document is looking pretty big after all.
Next up is Megabyte (MB). A Megabyte is equal to 1,000 KB or the size of a short novel. You can also think about 1 MB as representing the size of a 1,024 x 768 photograph. What about music? A normal CD is 700 MB. That's good for about 80 minutes of music. 1 MB of a song on a CD is equal to 6.857 seconds.
**Quick Test: Can you convert 1 MB into bits?
Answer: If 1 MB = 1,000 KB = 1,000 B and 1 B = 8 bits, then 1 x 1,000 x 1,000 x 8 = 8,000,000 bits.
**Bonus Test: Can you convert a 700 MB CD into bits? The level of difficulty just went up substantially.
Answer: If 1 MB = 1,000 KB = 1,000 B and 1 B = 8 b, then 700 x 1,000 x 1,000 x 8 = 5,600,000,000 bits.
A Gigabyte (GB) is 1,000 Megabytes or approximately 1,000,000,000 Bytes. This unit of measurement is typically used for measuring the storage of media such as hard drives or DVDs. To visualize the size of a GB, a Blu-ray disc can hold approximately 50 GB.
**Quick Test: Can you convert a GB to bits? Answer: If 1 GB = 1,000 MB = 1,000 KB = 1,000 B x 8 b, then 1 x 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000 x 8 = 8,000,000,000 bits.
Okay, since that was easy you should be able to easily convert a Blu-ray from Bytes to bits and don't cheat by multiplying the above by 50! Bonus Question: How many bits are there in a Blu-ray disc holding 50 GB? 50 GB x 1,000 MB x 1,000 KB x 1,000 B x 8 bits = 400,000,000,000.
Correct, that's 400 Billion bits. Compare that to the Word document which accounted for a mere 16,000 bits.
Data Storage and Transfer Rates Explained
Up to this point we have discussed Bytes versus bits and the measures of data storage and conversions. Why did we convert Bytes to bits along the way? Data transfer is in bits and is often confused with Bytes. Don't get confused by MB/s and Mbps or GB/s and Gbps. They are entirely different.
For example, some think that a computer can upload a file at 10 MB/s. However, this is not the case. You have to convert it to bits first since transfer is in bits rather than Bytes.
**Quick Test: How long would it take to transfer a 10 MB file if your Internet connection is 10 Mbps? Here we go again, 10 MB x 1,000 KB x 1,000 B x 8 bits = 80,000,000 bits. *(Hint: 1 Megabit (Mb) is equal to 1,000,000 bits). So, 10 Mbps is 10,000,000 bits per second.
Answer: 80,000,000 would take approximately 80 seconds or 1 minute and 20 seconds to transfer.
What are Terabytes (TB) and Petabytes (PB)?
Tera comes from a Greek word which means monster. Understanding the large size of a Terabyte makes it easy to see why researchers chose such powerful prefix for the term. A Terabyte (TB) is equal to 1000 Gigabytes (GB). Helping you visualize the gigantic size of a Terabyte, think of this: a single Terabyte can hold enough words from the English Dictionary that to equal the amount, every adult American would need to speak at the same time for five minutes straight to say them all. Or if it's easier to understand, One Terabyte is equivalent to over 470 hours of broadcast video.
If you thought a Terabyte was ""monstrous"" than Petabyte is on a whole different scale (maybe ""elephantus?""). One Petabyte (PB) is equal to 1000 TB. A Petabyte is commonly used in the telecommunications industry for storing and sending data. It is estimated that the human brain is capable of storing 2.5 petabytes of memory binary data. According to Wikipedia, As of January 2013, Facebook users had uploaded over 240 billion photos and added 350 million new photos every day. For each uploaded photo, Facebook generates and stores four images of different sizes. In the end, this translated to a total of 960 billion
images which is an estimated 357 Petabytes of storage. Also, referenced In 2009 Google processed more than 20 PB of data a per day.
Although understanding these storage terms may be difficult, it is vital in today's world. With the amount of cloud storage that organizations are beginning to achieve, understanding this information will be critical to their success.Having a better understanding of storage options companies will be able to research the marketplace and in the end make well informed decisions on what will best fit their organizations needs.
Although this may seem like a massive amount of data we aren't finished yet. Check back with us for Part two of our three part series ""Visualizing Data Storage: Taking a Byte out of Big Data"", to find out even more!
Vice President Sales and Engineering