Will the growth ever stop?

Some time ago I posted “To Pluto and Back” drawing on Richard Wray’s piece in The Guardian about the constant growth in the generation and storage of data.  Anyone who has ever dealt with any system knows that the amount of data coming into the enterprise is simply staggering.  Many of my clients are worried that any information management strategy is doomed for obsolescence based on infinite growth in the coming years.

In fact, while the amount of raw data is amazing, and would have been unimaginable just two decades ago, it is neither infinite nor really surprising.  When the price of storage dropped to about US$1 per megabyte that triggered a change in attitude from keep the minimum necessary to keep as much as possible.  It has taken time for approaches to business to catch-up with what is possible, and the rate that organisation’s have learnt to use this data has generally lagged the technology by a small amount.  However, we are not seeing a trend towards endless growth in data, rather a change in business that is as significant as the Industrial Revolution.

In the case of the Industrial Revolution it took a number of generations for business practices to mature, including labour practices and government planning.  As we move through the Information Revolution there are similar changes that we are going through, also including our practices that impact people and how governments manage economies which are global.  At some point we will have a handle on these new practices and at that time there will be a new norm for data – which will stabilise as some as yet unreached volume.

In my opinion, that point is not too far away (in the timeframes of history).  Assuming full motion video associated with every business activity (requiring maybe 1GB for everything that previously required just 1KB), then we could see that new business and data norm at some time between 2020 and 2030.  That’s well within my working life and today I am encouraging my clients to prepare data and information management strategies that are geared for this future rather than infinite growth.

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