Chasing the Customer … How Big Is A Zettabyte?

The Zettabyte series is about the infinite possibility of creating customer value. Digital Technology promises to be the greatest source of information and offering innovation ever devised. Follow the series as we explore how Digital Technology is altering the competitive landscape.


The Zettabyte


Should we know … how big a Zettabyte is? Should we even care what a Zettabyte is?

Mary Meeker of KPCB said in her 2013 presentation that the average mobile phone user checks their phone over 150 times per day! For what? Everything from addresses to weather. And that’s a large part of the reason why we are consuming Zettabytes of data — but not the largest part.


  1. Humans produce 5 zettabytes of data each year.
  2. The average person’s data footprint on a global per capita basis is just a little short of one terabyte.

Big Data is one of those marketing buzz words in use every day, these days. If anyone mentions big data in a meeting, article, memo, conversation, the majority of us ‘donkey nod’ in an apparent acquiescence of understanding.

But really  – What is Big Data Anyway?

Let’s get a definition.

If you wrote out all five zettabytes of data that humans produce each year by hand, your written record of 1’s and 0’s would reach to the galactic core of the Milky Way.

If you wrote out the one terabyte data footprint that the average person produces each year, all the 1’s and o’s that make up a byte, would extend to Saturn and back – 25 times. [Thanks to Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel for figuring this all out.]

If those numbers appear conceptually incomprehensible,  xo communications figured it out this way —a gigabyte stores about 960 minutes of music. A Zettabyte can store two billion years of music


Anything Bigger Than Zettabytes? Yottabytes and Brontobytes


Don’t worry, the geek types have already figured that out.  Yottabyte is next: a 1 followed by 24 zeros or to simplify things for you, a septillion bytes.


The Brontobyte photo by denise chan




Next on the evolutionary ladder is the Brontobyte: a 1 followed by 27 zeros.

After that comes the gegobyte which is 10 to the power of 30.



In a world of increasingly connected devices (the internet of things), where data analytics (big data) is increasingly what businesses rely on to carve the corporate path to success (or failure – depending on the data interpretation),  “bytes” grow exponentially while the gap between consumer use, corporate needs — and government requirements (think NSA) is widening.

Bits & Bytes Define Us

Big Data, Zetta and beyond,  promises societal change and organizational disruption coupled with revenue acceleration opportunities.

How will we, or the machines we create, handle all that data? Futurist Ray Kurzweil has noted that the rate at which computer chips are getting more powerful suggests that by 2045, an ordinary computer will have more processing power than all of mankind’s brains put together.

To really execute a ‘Chasing the Customer ‘or one-to-one marketing strategy, for example, you have to have customer specific data. Bundle all of the data of all of your customers – you have a lot of 1’s and 0’s or Big Data. Imagine traveling to Saturn and back 25 times. Then imagine having to travel to the core of the Milky Way. Kinda overwhelms one’s comprehension.

Anyway – that’s what Big Data is.

Next installment — the 8 dimensions of the Zettabyte Multiverse

[Personal Note: By the time 2045 rolls around, I am sure I will be long gone into the ether. But some of my 23 year-old friends will be in their prime. I am often reminded these days that Google will remember every word that was posted on the Internet. If so, in 2045, some former friend might remember this blog and post an addendum as to whether or not Kurzweil was right.]



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