Petabyte Definition & Meaning

A petabyte is 1015 bytes of digital information. The unit symbol for the petabyte is PB. It is a measure of memory or data storage capacity.

There are 1,024 terabytes (TB) or approximately 1 million gigabytes (GB) in a petabyte. 1,024 petabytes make up one exabyte. A petabyte is not suited for traditional data backups. To get an idea of how large a petabyte of storage is, here are some examples:

  • A typical DVD holds 4.7 GB of data, meaning a petabyte of storage could hold 223,101 DVD-quality movies.
  • To store one petabyte of data, 745 million floppy disks would be needed.
  • The Library of Congress holds over 20 petabytes of data.
  • A petabyte’s worth of data stored in 1GB flash drives would stretch over 92 football fields.

For comparison, this chart details a petabyte’s place in storage capacity.

Petabytes and Pebibytes

A petabyte is sometimes defined as a 250 bytes. There are two different systems of measuring bytes: the Base10 SI system (SI) and the Base2 IEC (IEC) system. While 250 bytes is close to 1015, it is higher and has a different term pebibyte (PiB).

Computing is based on the binary system rather than decimal. At low levels, the SI and IEC terms are interchangeable. 103 = 1,000 and 210 = 1,024, so there is only slightly more than a 2 percent difference between the one kilobyte (1,000 bytes) and one kibibyte (1024 bytes). As storage systems are never run within 2 percent of their capacity, there is no operational difference between the two.

There is greater divergence, however, as we get into higher orders of magnitude. As shown in the table below, the percentage difference grows as the byte amount grows. Therefore, when specifying capacity of a large scale system, it’s important to not to combine the two different systems of counting data storage space.

SI decimal prefixes IEC binary prefixes Percentage Difference IEC/SI
Name Value Name Value
kilobyte (kB) 103 kibibyte (KiB) 210 2.4%
megabyte (MB) 106 mebibyte (MiB) 220 4.9%
gigabyte (GB) 109 gibibyte (GiB) 230 7.4%
terabyte (TB) 1012 tebibyte (TiB) 240 10.0%
petabyte (PB) 1015 pebibyte (PiB) 250 12.6%
exabyte (EB) 1018 exbibyte (EiB) 260 15.3%
zettabyte (ZB) 1021 zebibyte (ZiB) 270 18.1%
yottabyte (YB) 1024 yobibyte (YiB) 280 20.9%

Petabyte storage vendors

Vendors selling immense storage systems for those needing a petabyte’s worth of storage capacity include:

  • Broadberry
  • StoneFly
  • Aberdeen
  • SimplStor

 

Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes is a newly-graduated writer and editor for websites such as TechnologyAdvice.com, Webopedia.com, and Project-Management.com. When she’s not writing about technology, she enjoys giving too many treats to her dog and coaching part-time at her local gym.

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