How much data has been created, lost and recovered since the advent of the PC?

Kroll Ontrack has recovered more than 103 petabytes of data over the past 25 years.

THE DIGITAL ERA: How our life has changed into a digital one; and the creation, loss and recovery of data over time (Source: Kroll Ontrack).

THE DIGITAL ERA: How our life has changed into a digital one; and the creation, loss and recovery of data over time (Source: Kroll Ontrack).



Kroll Ontrack
has released new statistics regarding how the creation of storage technologies and digital information has impacted data loss and data recovery technology since the advent of the personal computer in the 1980’s.

“In the past 25 years, the worst cases Kroll Ontrack has seen have coincided with natural disasters, which included burned, water logged and physically damaged drives,” said Todd Johnson, vice president of operations, Kroll Ontrack.Since the first Kroll Ontrack data recovery lab opened in 1987, more than 103 petabytes (PB) of data has been recovered.

How much is 103 PB of data? That’s equivalent to 25 million USB flash drives, each with 4 GB capacity.

Only 1.2 GB of data was recovered in 1987, whereas the amount of data recovered by Kroll Ontrack in 2011 has skyrocketed to nearly 35 million GB (35 PB).

The number of computers impacted by data loss was estimated to have reached nearly 1.4 million – compared to only 33,000 in 1987.

According to an analysis by Kroll Ontrack, the number of data loss cases over the past 25 years grew in parallel with the total number of personal computers in the world.

“One of the company’s most successful endeavors was the recovery of more than 99 percent of mission-critical data from a melted, crashed and burned drive from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia,” revealed Johnson.The analysis also revealed that on average, one in one thousand computers lost data stored on it.

In the 1980’s, at the onset of the so-called PC era, the estimated number of personal computers in use was nearly 7,000 devices per one million people and approximately 33,000 of them suffered data loss.

By the mid 1990’s, the number of computers in use was nearly 40,000 per one million people and data was lost from approximately 225,000 computers.

In 2011, these figures reached more than 200,000 computers and 1.4 million cases of data loss, respectively.

“You cannot go through day-to-day life without interfacing with some form of digital data,” said CK Lee, country manager, Kroll Ontrack Singapore. “As technology advances to include virtualization, cloud, and social media, individuals, businesses and of course data recovery specialists have to evolve to address these storage mediums and the new challenges they present.”According to the latest IDC Digital Universe study, the amount of data more than doubles each year, and in 2012, it will exceed 1.8 zettabytes.

This is the equivalent of 200 billion two-hour long HD movies that one person would have to watch continuously for 47 million years.

As data creation increases, so does data loss.

According to a report by market research firm Gartner, every year at least 25 percent of computer users worldwide experience data loss.

Kroll Ontrack statistics indicate that 29 percent of data is lost as a result of hardware failure and 27 percent is due to human error.

Other causes include software errors (7 percent), computer viruses (7 percent) and natural disasters such as floods or fires (3 percent).

Below is a timeline infographic by Kroll Ontrack charting a brief history of the digital era.


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