The Growth of Terabytes

Years ago, fresh out of university, I joined the IEEE. As one of the benefits, I got their magazine, with various articles that might expand my knowledge. In one issue, I remember reading about the challenges of video on demand. At the time, calculating what it would take to store digital movies and broadcast them to each TV seemed like an impossible task. This was in the days if hardwired 10Mbps Ethernet and dial-up Internet.

Not too long ago I had some Internet bandwidth issues, and got some stuttering during video meetings. I run Rainmeter as a skin on my PC, and once I got things working, I was curious what sort of bandwidth I was using. These days, if I’m not doing any streaming of audio/video, my PC seems to need about 1-3kbps to keep Tweetdeck, Outlook, Slack, etc. going. Youtube seems to get bursts to 1.5Mbps every few seconds, but plenty of low < 100kbps times in between. Netflix seems to be a steady 2Mbps to get video.

All of that doesn’t seem to add up to much for my household. Even when 5 of us lived here, with lots of streaming from the kids, our symmetrical 15MBps connection worked fine. I don’t know what our total usage was for the month, but I doubt we used 1TB a month. Actually, if I calculate it out, full use of 15Mbps for a month is about 4TB, so maybe the kids got there?

Apparently, more and more people are getting there. A report shows that 14% of some weighted set of subscribers use over 1TB a month. This is over their broadband connection, and likely leaves out mobile usage. While lots of this usage and bandwidth is transient data, like streaming movies, this also means that some data professionals, and network professionals, need to manage the data that flows.

For many data professionals, this isn’t necessarily a problem, and in some sense, this is good for us. Heavy usage pushes the network staff to increase the speed and capacity of links. That means those of us transferring data (CSVs, backups, etc.), can get our jobs done faster.

So watch more movies, stream more music, and root for the carriers to increase speeds and capacities.

Steve Jones

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