If you're not sure what a zettabyte is, then listen up. It's equal to a million terabytes, a trillion gigabytes, or a whopping 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 individual bytes.
And here's why it's important. By 2016, global Internet traffic is expected to reach a staggering 1.3 zettabytes annually, according to a new report from Cisco. To put that into perspective, it's the equivalent of 38 million DVDs per hour. The network equipment maker predicts that monthly Internet traffic in 2016 will be four times the level seen in 2011.
Cisco says that several main factors will contribute to the staggering growth in Internet traffic: an increasing number of devices, more Internet users, faster broadband speeds and more video. By 2016, there are expected to be some 3.4 billion Internet users, or about 45 per cent of the world's projected population. And the proliferation of tablets and smartphones will drive up the number of network connections to nearly 19 billion, or the equivalent of 2.5 connections for each person on earth.
"Each of us increasingly connects to the network via multiple devices in our always-on connected lifestyles", Suraj Shetty, vice president of product and solutions marketing at Cisco, said in a statement.
All those Internet users, with all their Internet-connected devices, are also going to need faster broadband, and want to watch more online video. The average broadband speed is expected to increase fourfold, from 9 Mbps in 2011 to 34 Mbps in 2016, Cisco predicted. And, 1.2 million minutes of video, or the equivalent of more than two years' worth, will be consumed every second.
Users are also going to rely on Wi-Fi more in the future. By 2016, over half the world's Internet traffic is expected to come from Wi-Fi connections.