Bits and Bytes – What do they mean?

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Bits and Bytes – What do they mean?

You may have heard the terms “bits and bytes” when referring to digital data size, but what do they mean? And how are bits and bytes different?

Firstly, we have to talk about how computers process and store data. Computers don’t store and process data with words or phrases, instead, they are made up of billions of transistors, which is a tiny switch that is activated when it receives an electronic signal.

When the transistors are activated with a signal, they change from 0, being the off-state, to 1, the on-state. When a large amount of these transistors are used together they can compile and store complex information and data.

Each “Bit” represents a single transistor, being either 0 for off, or 1 for on, and is the smallest data measurement unit possible. 

Units of Storage

bits to bytes chart - bits and bytes what do they mean website design graphic design studio ipswich suffolk london uk marketing agency bytes chart - bits and bytes what do they mean website design graphic design studio ipswich suffolk london uk marketing agency

A Byte is equivalent to 8 adjacent Bits, and is the smallest usable unit of storage in computer technology, and represents the very smallest data, such as a single letter or number.

When measuring data amounts, Bytes are used to measure the actual size of a data volume, whereas individual bits are used to measure the speed of a data volume. This is why you see “Mbps” being used to measure internet speed, which actually means “Megabits Per Second”.

There are different names given to each increment of bits and bytes and is usually measured by multiples of 1000, although binary systems allocate multiples of 1024. 

Unit Increments

For example, 1000 bytes is what’s known as a Kilobyte, and are still very small file sizes, most commonly seen in these sizes when using plain text documents or other small files types. 

1000 Kilobytes equals a Megabyte or (1 Million Bytes) and can be used for richer media such as images, small mp4 videos, and music files.

1000 Megabytes equals a Gigabyte (1 Billion Bytes), which are commonly larger files such as movies, or other more substantial data.

Next is Terabytes; this used to only be seen in business level servers, but due to our ever-expanding collection of digital data; consumer-level computers now even come with Terabytes of data storage.

However what isn’t common is to see a single file that measures a Terabyte as most instances of terabyte storage use, is simply the accumulation of many megabytes and gigabyte files.

Though some scientific data calculations may have single file sizes that measure a terabyte or more.

Digital Data Sizes and Names

Below is a progressive list of the data sizes and names as seen in binary format on computers.

  • Bit
  • Byte
  • Kilobyte (1024 Bytes)
  • Megabyte (1024 Kilobytes)
  • Gigabyte (1,024 Megabytes)
  • Terabyte (1,024 Gigabytes)
  • Petabyte  (1,024 Terabytes)
  • Exabyte (1,024 Petabytes)
  • Zettabyte (1,024 Exabytes)
  • Yottabyte (1,204 Zettabytes)

So as you can see this continues all the way to “Yottabytes” (or 1 septillion bytes), which is the largest approved standard size of storage, although we’re not even close to reaching this file size, as the entire digital universe has only reached 0.27% of this.

Theoretically, a “Geopbyte” is the largest ever file size thought of, being equivalent to 1030 bytes. That’s a lot!

This naming process also applies to Bits, when measuring speed; we will cover this in more detail in a different blog.

And?

So why are we at Painting Pixels writing a post about data sizes; well first of all it’s important for everyone who uses a digital device that saves files to understand this as this will be more and more important as years go by as it will influence your daily life.

From our point of view at Painting Pixels; it’s super important that we have a good grasp of data sizes as we churn through a lot of data storage on a daily basis. Our process of incremental saving, data created from our 3D render files, video export files, raw photo, 4K video files and our photogrammetry’s scans; basically it all adds up!

So if we don’t understand this process and keep a careful eye on our storage strategy then we will quickly run out of space locally as well as in the cloud. This understanding of data sizes and file sizes helps control data storage costs as our in-house data-set continues to grow.

Take look at this post we made all the way back in 2013; when we upgraded our servers to 56 Terabytes; this seemed like a lot back then.

Painting Pixels Digital Services

Now that you’re here, take a look at our services and how our digital marketing can help businesses take advantage of digital content to showcase their services on social media platforms and on websites. And yes, this all creates data, so be part of it because if you don’t have enough of a presence online; in some instances, as it’s good as not existing.

So contact Painting Pixels today to start your digital marketing journey.

Sources:

Fcarmody (2016). English: Relationship of bits to bytes as well as relative size of byte based units of storage. [online] Wikimedia Commons. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bits_and_Bytes.svg [Accessed 14 May 2021].

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