In the near future, when Wi-Fi becomes ubiquitous and we enjoy Internet access everywhere we go, it won't matter what kind of computer you own or how big your hard drive is. All of your documents, music and pictures -- all of you, basically -- will store conveniently in the cloud.
At least, that's what big names like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are betting on by ramping up their cloud-based storage and service capabilities. With massive remote server clusters, these companies can host ridiculously large storage for users. Already, there are more than 20 competitors in the storage game: DropBox, Box, Cubby, Mozy Stash and others among them. All this and the cloud is still unfamiliar territory for many.
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But how much could the cloud really hold -- what is the capacity for these mysterious clusters? Tough to say. Google, Amazon, et al won't put a number on their capacity, for fear of losing the edge to competitors. So the scope of the digital cloud remains just as foggy and intangible as its nebulous namesake.
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Some companies have dropped clues to their true cloud space, however. Their networks scale many petabytes of data on a daily basis, storing and transmitting hundreds of gigabytes per second. If we assume the major cloud operators -- Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft -- are storing about 300 petabytes each (and that's a conservative estimate), then the cloud as we know it reaches at least 1 exabyte.
That's a big, scary cloud. It's estimated that all of documented human history could fit in just five exabytes. But when was the last time you had to move all of documented human history from a phone to a computer and back again? In other words, how big is an exabyte -- how big is the cloud -- in terms familiar to you? Look below to find out.
This story originally published on Mashable here.