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A petabyte is a unit of information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

 equal to one quadrillion
Quadrillion may mean either of the two numbers :* 1,000,000,000,000,000 – for all short scale countries; increasingly common meaning in English language usage* 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – for all...

 (short scale
Long and short scales
The long and short scales are two of several different large-number naming systems used throughout the world for integer powers of ten. Many countries, including most in continental Europe, use the long scale whereas most English-speaking countries use the short scale...

) byte
The byte is a unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, a byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the basic addressable element in many computer...

s, or 1000 terabytes. The unit symbol for the petabyte is PB. The prefix peta (P) indicates the fifth power to 1000:
  • 1 PB = = 10005 B = 1015 B = 1 million gigabytes = 1 thousand terabytes

But, in traditional binary usage, there are 1 125 899 906 842 624 bytes in 1 petabyte.

The pebibyte
The pebibyte is a standards-based binary multiple of the byte, a unit of digital information storage. The pebibyte unit symbol is PiB....

 (PiB), using a binary prefix
Binary prefix
In computing, a binary prefix is a specifier or mnemonic that is prepended to the units of digital information, the bit and the byte, to indicate multiplication by a power of 2...

, is used for the corresponding power of 1024, which is more than 12% greater.

The unit petabyte is sometimes used for the corresponding power of 1024, following traditional designations of computer storage size, a practice superseded by modern conventions.

Usage examples

Examples of the use of the petabyte to describe data sizes in different fields are:
  • The world's effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication
    Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

     networks was 281 petabytes of (optimally compressed) information in 1986, 471 petabytes in 1993, 2,200 petabytes in 2000, and 65,000 (optimally compressed) petabytes in 2007 (this is the informational equivalent to every person exchanging 6 newspapers per day).
  • Computer hardware: Teradata
    Teradata Corporation is a vendor specializing in data warehousing and analytic applications. Its products are commonly used by companies to manage data warehouses for analytics and business intelligence purposes. Teradata was formerly a division of NCR Corporation, with the spinoff from NCR on...

     Database 12 has a capacity of 50 petabytes of compressed data.
  • Internet: Google
    Google Inc. is an American multinational public corporation invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program...

     processes about 24 petabytes of data per day. The BBC's
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

    BBC iPlayer
    BBC iPlayer, commonly shortened to iPlayer, is an internet television and radio service, developed by the BBC to extend its former RealPlayer-based and other streamed video clip content to include whole TV shows....

     is reported to use 7 petabytes of bandwidth each month.
  • Telecoms: AT&T
    AT&T Inc. is an American multinational telecommunications corporation headquartered in Whitacre Tower, Dallas, Texas, United States. It is the largest provider of mobile telephony and fixed telephony in the United States, and is also a provider of broadband and subscription television services...

     transfers about 19 petabytes of data through their networks each day.
  • Physics: The 4 experiments in the Large Hadron Collider
    Large Hadron Collider
    The Large Hadron Collider is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It is expected to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics, advancing the understanding of the deepest laws of nature....

     will produce about 15 petabytes of data per year, which will be distributed over the LHC Computing Grid
    LHC Computing Grid
    The Worldwide LHC Computing Grid is a computer network designed by CERN to handle the massive amounts of data produced by the Large Hadron Collider .-Description:A design report was published in 2005....

  • Neurology: The adult human Brain
    The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few primitive invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfishes do not have one. It is located in the head, usually close to primary sensory apparatus such as vision, hearing,...

     has been estimated to store a limit of up to 2.5 petabytes of binary data equivalent (albeit with extremely lossy compression).
  • Climate science: The German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) has a storage capacity of 60 petabytes of climate data.
  • Archives: The Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

     contains about 5.8 petabytes of data as of December 2010. It was growing at the rate of about 100 terabytes per month in March 2009.
  • Games: World of Warcraft
    World of Warcraft
    World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994...

     uses 1.3 petabytes of storage to maintain its game. Steam, a digital gaming service developed by Valve
    A valve is a device that regulates, directs or controls the flow of a fluid by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are technically pipe fittings, but are usually discussed as a separate category...

    , delivers over 30 petabytes of content monthly.
  • Film: The 2009 movie Avatar is reported to have taken over 1 petabyte of local storage at Weta Digital
    Weta Digital
    Weta Digital is a digital visual effects company based in Wellington, New Zealand. It was founded by Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993 to produce the digital special effects for Heavenly Creatures. In 2007 Weta Digital’s Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Joe Letteri, was...

    for the rendering of the 3D CGI effects.
  • In August 2011, IBM was reported to have built the largest storage array ever, with a capacity of 120 petabytes.

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