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What Is A Zettabyte in Computing, and What Does it Equal?

# What Is A Zettabyte in Computing, and What Does it Equal?

Although the word “zettabyte” sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, it’s actually something that humans are going to need in the not-so-distant future! Computing capabilities and capacity are always increasing, and humans constantly need new ways to talk about things in terms that make sense. Today, we are going to be learning about one of the largest measurements in computing, the zettabyte (ZB). Let’s discover how big a zettabyte is and what we might need it to measure!

## What is a Zettabyte?

A zettabyte is a unit of digital information storage or data size. It is equal to 10^21 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion) bytes, 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) GB, or 1,000 exabytes.

When answering questions about digital storage, it’s important to understand what digital storage even is. In the physical world, humans store things in places that we generally quantify through measurements like square feet, cubic meters, or other measurements of area or volume. If we want to store something physically, understanding the storage capacity helps us to visualize how much room we have. A 100-square-foot room, for example, immediately gives us a reference for the size of a room.

For larger areas, however, we need larger units of measurement. It’s possible to use the same square-foot measurement to measure the land area of the state of California, but that probably isn’t the most useful idea. Instead, humans move up to a different unit size like acres or even square miles. In computing, the same thing is true. However, instead of storing physical things, we store digital content like videos, personal data, photos, and a whole lot more.

A zettabyte is one of the largest measurements that humans have ever come up with for measuring digital storage capacity. In the early days of computing, small measurements like the simple byte or kilobyte sufficed. However, in recent years, and with how digitized everything has become, extraordinarily massive units are needed to help bring meaning back to data storage and capacity. Let’s break down what a zettabyte is with some real-world comparisons.

## Understanding and Comparing a Zettabyte

Here’s a quick reference table of the smallest to the largest digital storage units, ending with a zettabyte:

As a note, these calculations are in binary, meaning they end in “24.” However, any math done in decimal will be a multiple of 10 (i.e., there are 1000 gigabytes in a terabyte instead of 1024).

Looking at the chart, we can see that a zettabyte is astonishingly massive. In fact, humans probably haven’t ever needed to measure real-world data capacity using a zettabyte quite yet, although that day isn’t far away.

For further reference, most movies are around 2 GB in size. With a terabyte of storage, you could store 500 movies. A petabyte of storage, allows you to store 1000 terabytes of 500 movies (500,000 movies). With an exabyte of storage, you could store 1000 petabytes, each with 1000 terabytes, each with 500 movies, or 500 million movies total. Finally, with a zettabyte of storage, you could store 1000 exabytes, each with 1000 petabytes, with each petabyte holding 500,000 movies, or roughly 500 billion movies total.

## What are Zettabytes Used For?

Currently, most of the data storage units that regular people use caps out around gigabytes and occasionally terabytes. The individual user has, quite literally, no use for anything larger than that. The largest data storage centers in the world, places like Google, Netflix, and Amazon Web Services, are just recently starting to use exabytes to classify their total storage capacities at a global scale.

What that means is that currently, the only real reason we would have for measuring things is zettabytes is if we wanted to talk about the entire digital storage capacity of large countries or regions of the world, not just companies. All of the collective storage for every human and business in North America, for example, might be able to justify the use of a zettabyte. However, even then, it’s probably in the single digits if it clears exabytes at all. Current projections suggest total global data storage will surpass 200 zettabytes by 2025.

Within a decade or so, it’s likely that we will be using zettabytes a little more often, as the world doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all, particularly when it comes to digital storage needs.

## What Is A Zettabyte in Computing, and What Does it Equal? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is a zettabyte in computing terms?

A zettabyte is a unit of digital information storage or data size, which is equal to 10^21 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion) bytes, 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) GB, or 1,000 exabytes.

How does the size of a zettabyte compare to other digital storage units?

A zettabyte is one of the largest measurements for measuring digital storage capacity, with 1024 exabytes making up one zettabyte. To put this into perspective, with one zettabyte of storage, you could store 500 billion movies.

What are zettabytes used for currently?

Currently, most of the data storage units used by individuals are limited to gigabytes or terabytes, with the largest measurements used by companies like Google and Amazon being in the exabytes. Still, it’s only a matter of time before humans are using it!

What would be measured in zettabytes?

Right now, the only real reason we would have for measuring things is zettabytes is if we wanted to talk about the entire digital storage capacity of large countries or regions of the world.

#### Colby Maxwell, Author for History-Computer

Colby is a science and tech writer that fell in love with computers after he hacked his neighbor's wifi as a kid (and got in serious trouble). He primarily writes about science, new technology, and innovative concepts that have the potential to change the world, or let him game in 4k.