Big data gap: Less than 1% of world’s data is being analyzed

Despite the unprecedented expansion of the digital universe due to the massive amounts of data being generated daily by people and machines, only 0.5% of the world’s data is being analyzed, finds an EMC-sponsored IDC Digital Universe study.

The proliferation of devices such as PCs and smartphones worldwide, increased Internet access within emerging markets and the boost in data from machines such as surveillance cameras or smart meters has contributed to the doubling of the digital universe within the past two years alone — to a mammoth 2.8 ZB. IDC projects that the digital universe will reach 40 ZB by 2020, an amount that exceeds previous forecasts by 14%. By that year, 40 ZB will be 5,247 GB per person worldwide.

There are 700,500,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand on all the beaches on earth (or seven quintillion five quadrillion). That means 40 ZB is equal to 57 times the amount of all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth.

The “Big Data, Bigger Digital Shadows, and Biggest Growth in the Far East” study says that if we could save all 40 ZB onto today’s Blue-ray discs, the weight of those discs (without any sleeves or cases) would be the same as 424 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

The study – measuring and forecasting the amount of digital information created and copied annually – includes findings around the “Big Data Gap,” which is the gap between the amount of data with hidden value and the amount of value that is actually being extracted; the level of data protection required versus what is being delivered; and the geographic implications of the world’s data.

IDC projects that the digital universe will reach 40 ZB by 2020, an amount that exceeds previous forecasts. The digital universe will double every two years between now and 2020, and there will be approximately 5,247 GB of data for every man, woman and child on earth in 2020.

A major factor behind the expansion of the digital universe is the growth of machine generated data, increasing from 11% of the digital universe in 2005 to over 40% in 2020.

The study highlights that the promise of Big Data lies within the extraction of value from large, untapped pools of data. However, the majority of new data is largely untagged file-based and unstructured data, which means little is known about it.

In 2012, 23% (643 exabytes) of the digital universe would be useful for Big Data if tagged and analyzed. However, currently only 3% of the potentially useful data is tagged, and even less is analyzed.

The amount of useful data is expanding with the growth of the digital universe. By 2020, 33% of the digital universe (13,000+ exabytes) will have Big Data value if it is tagged and analyzed.

According to the study, the amount of data that requires protection is growing faster than the digital universe itself. Less than a third of the digital universe required data protection in 2010, but that proportion is expected to exceed 40% by 2020.

In 2012, while about 35% of the information in the digital universe required some type of data protection, less than 20% of the digital universe actually has these protections.

The level of protection varies by region, with much less protection in the emerging markets.

Challenges such as advanced threats, the security skills gap and lack of adherence to security best practices among consumers and corporations will continue to compound the issue.