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The storage industry's two favorite professors have completed their annual look at data growth and found once again that data is growing.

Peter Lyman and Hal Varian of Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems say that information production has increased by 30 percent each year between 1999 and 2002. Last year alone, the amount of data stored on paper, film, optical and magnetic media reached five exabytes - or 5 million terabytes. This is music to storage vendors' ears, and it should come as no shock that EMC, HP, Intel and Microsoft "supported" the study.

"All of a sudden, almost every aspect of life around the world is being recorded and stored in some information format," said Lyman. "That's a real change in our human ecology."

The annual Berkeley study has been at the heart of myriad vendor press releases over the past few years. The vendors love to try and convince the world that humans have a data collection addiction. And North Americans are the largest data fiends around.

The average North American consumes 11,916 sheets of paper each year compared to 7,280 sheets chewed up by European Union residents. The average U.S. Internet user also spends more than twice as much time online as do users in the rest of the world. The world average is 11.5 hours per month of online time.

Data traveling along phone lines still accounts for the largest chunk of worldwide "information flow" with e-mail coming in second. The researchers also found that 70 percent of the files on users' hard disks who swap files are MP3s and digital videos. No surprise there.

Jim Gray, a longtime data watcher and distinguished engineer at Microsoft, gave his two cents as to what the data explosion will require from IT companies.

"This study shows what an enormous challenge we and the rest of the information technology industry face in organizing, summarizing and presenting the vast amount of information mankind is accumulating," Gray said.

The complete study can be found here. ®

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