From luxury to commodity to absolute necessity – the consumerisation of digital storage

The world’s first hard drive, shipped in 1956, was the size of two refrigerators and held just 5MB of data.

July 4, 2012

By Khalid Wani, Western Digital Sales Director – Branded Business – Middle East, Africa and India

The world’s first hard drive, shipped in 1956, was the size of two refrigerators, held just 5MB of data and cost an incredible $10 000 per megabyte. By today’s standards this would not even hold a single high quality MP3 format song, could probably only hold one or two photographs, and the drive would take up more space than the average office cubicle. Storage has come a long way in less than 60 years, becoming smaller, more portable and higher in capacity, and the price per gigabyte has continued to drop, from $300 000 in 1981 to less than 10 US cents in 2010.

Digital storage has evolved from a rarity to a luxury, and from a luxury to a consumer commodity, driven by constant connectivity and a lifestyle that drives digital content generation. One could even go so far as to say that storage is a necessity, since much of our lives are now online and losing entire hard drives full of data could be a disaster for business and personal users alike.

Driven by more available connectivity and evolving technology, file sizes are only getting larger, and high definition photographs, music, video and multimedia are becoming easier to download and share.  These files all need to be securely stored and backed up. Users are also becoming increasingly mobile and want to be able to take their digital files with them wherever they go. The trend of smaller, more portable, cheaper hard drives with greater capacity than ever is one that is set to drive the future of storage, as content generation and sharing continues to grow and files sizes increase.

The sheer number of digital devices available to consumers is also contributing to the growth in demand for storage. Smart phones allow users to take photographs and share them, receive emails, even create videos, and tablet PCs enable all of this and more. Users also want to be able to share this content online, which means that whoever is hosting social media sites will also need more and more storage. Content creation and the social media revolution is driving demand for consumer storage, and the average home now requires in the region of 1TB of storage, compared to a few hundred gigabytes a few years ago.

However, as more and more data is stored digitally, the need for backup storage has also grown. Users who store their music, movies, photographs and more in a digital format need to ensure that this data is also securely backed up, whether this is on a portable hard drive, a desktop hard drive, or increasingly in a network attached storage environment that also enables personal cloud storage for access anywhere anytime.

When it comes to storage, mobility is key. Portable storage enables users to take their files anywhere, but networked cloud storage allows them to keep their files in a centralised facility and access them from a variety of different devices. And while portable drives are increasing in capacity, this space still remains limited, and the Cloud is becoming an increasingly attractive option. Networked storage with personal cloud capability allows the best of all worlds, with access to centralised storage from multiple devices without the security concerns of the public cloud. Networked storage also enables users to store content on a central drive and then share this content wirelessly for sharing and streaming of videos, music and more onto televisions and other smart devices. This convergence and the emergence of the connected home is again a result of the proliferation of content creation and the current lifestyle of sharing and collaboration.

Once thing is certain, digital storage is here to stay, and we can fully expect it to follow the same trend as it has for the past 50 years and more. We will continue to see more storage, in a more portable format, with greater speeds and at a more affordable price. Storage is no longer a luxury, but a necessary commodity that keeps business and consumers connected to their world.