With annual consumer digital storage needs set to increase to a staggering 4.1 zettabytes by 2016, a new report suggest over a third of that total will be hosted in the cloud. Guy Daniels reports.
Whether we like it or not, and whatever your concerns over security and privacy, cloud storage is here today and its use is just going to increase with time. But what’s driving the use of cloud for digital content storage? According to research firm Gartner, it’s the desire to share content and to access it on multiple devices.
Although just 7 per cent of consumer content was stored in the cloud in 2011, Gartner forecasts this will grow to 36 per cent in 2016. Shalini Verma, principal research analyst at Gartner, explains how the growth of smart devices is also contributing:
“Historically, consumers have generally stored content on their PCs, but as we enter the post-PC era, consumers are using multiple connected devices, the majority of which are equipped with cameras. This is leading to a massive increase in new user-generated content that requires storage.”
The increased use of camera-equipped smartphones and tablets has led Gartner to predict that worldwide consumer digital storage needs will grow from 329 exabytes in 2011 to 4.1 zettabytes in 2016. This includes digital content stored in PCs, smartphones, tablets, hard-disk drives, network attached storage and cloud repositories.
Putting these figures into a more manageable perspective, Gartner believes the average storage per household will grow from 464 gigabytes in 2011 to 3.3 terabytes in 2016.
(For those of use lacking a PhD in advanced computer storage, the SearchStorage website helpfully tells us that a zettabyte is a thousand exabytes, and an exabyte is a billion gigabytes. Or in layman’s terms, an exabyte could hold 50,000 year’s worth of DVD-quality video.)
For the moment though, it’s not going to be dedicated cloud storage providers who make the running in this sector. The bulk of the cloud storage needs of consumers in the near term will be met by social media sites such as Facebook, which offer free storage space for uploading photos and videos for social sharing. However, cloud storage firms received an unexpected increase in business as a result of the floods in Thailand in early 2012, which limited the supply of hard-disk drives and sent the price through the roof.
Gartner is an ardent supporter of the concept of the ‘personal cloud’ (see this report, for example), and it believes this will force consumer digital content to become quickly disaggregated from connected devices. In fact, Gartner has said previously that it believes 90 per cent of all connected consumer devices will incorporate ‘personal cloud’ functionality by the end of 2013.
Free cloud services through partnerships with smart device manufacturers and storage companies will get more consumers used to the idea of off-device storage. Gartner’s Shalini Verma says the use of cloud online storage and sync services will “provide the foundational experience” for consumers to start using cloud storage as part of the personal cloud:
“Cloud storage will grow with the emergence of the personal cloud, which in turn will simplify the direct-to-cloud model, allowing users to directly store user-generated content in the cloud. As storage becomes a part of the personal cloud, it will become further commoditized. Therefore, online storage and sync companies need to have a strategic rethink about their future approach.”
Gartner believes the majority of the growth in cloud storage will come from North America and Western Europe.
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