The world is exploding. With data that is.
At any one moment, millions are on the Internet, typing out search queries or logging onto various social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter. Businesses, which are just as data hungry, are also growing their data usage exponentially. According to research consultancy IDG, data created by humans has grown eight times between 2005 and 2010. Such demand for data is beginning to put a strain on networks and challenges for the future will include predicting how much more capacity is needed and how to stay ahead.
Growth of mobile devices
Data demand is partially driven by the increased use of electronic devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, consumer Internet traffic generated from PCs is expected to drop from 94 to 81 percent between 2011 and 2016. This demonstrates the impact that a growing number and variety of devices like tablets and smartphones are having on how consumers and businesses access and use the Internet. The battery life of devices is also improving to the point where tablets can go for longer periods between charges, allowing users to get on the network anytime, anywhere.
Moving forward, network growth is more likely to be driven by mobile instead of fixed networks. With people constantly on the move and unwilling to be disconnected from their devices, mobile data traffic will continue grow substantially, and is likely to be further fuelled by the growing trend of video viewing on handheld devices. Mobile broadband will become dominant in emerging economies where price or lack of access makes fixed broadband impossible or implausible.
In response to the consumer's growing demand for more data bandwidth, telecom operators are investing in ways to offload data traffic from their airwaves onto cheaper local networks, such as wi-fi hot spots and small cellular base stations in order to maintain profitability. While investing and building the next generation of faster wireless networks, known as 4G LTE, telco players are already discouraging heavy data users by enforcing monthly data caps and moving away from unlimited data plans.
Enterprise data usage
Businesses are also collecting mountains of unstructured data from an increasing number of channels such as user-generated content from social media sites and software logs in the hope that it will lead to new profit opportunities in the future. The digitisation of the workplace, through the establishment of e-mail as a primary vehicle of business communication and the use of networked machines and processes, such as Google docs, generate a steady stream of real time data which adds to business data consumption.
The widespread implementation of CRM and ERP solutions has increased the volume of structured data generated about partners, suppliers and customers. For example, Wal-Mart processes one million client business transactions every hour and manages databases over 170 times the size of the entire Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. Regulators also mandate the maintenance of audit trails and financial data to be stored by companies for compliance reasons. With businesses being forced to be more agile in responding to ever-changing business trends, data cycles are compressed as data becomes outdated faster, feeding the demand for more data within a shorter time.
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