Fun With Numbers

I hate math, but I love numbers. Isn’t that strange? Math was always my worst subject in school. Everything else I could get through pretty handily, but math (and later, trig and algebra) was always something I struggled with, as I’m sure a lot of left-brained people do. Proofs, area, x=5y^2, all that stuff … it just came out jumbled in my head. However, I love looking at numbers. I could read the baseball box scores all day (and often do). I love those banks of statistics in every USA Today edition. I love those stories that include the lines about “Americans do / eat / work XXXX a year … that’s equivalent to XXX…”


Numbers are a big part of our business here at ElephantDrive. So, it occurred to me, when looking over the breakdown of the different plans that ElephantDrive offers, that a lot of you out there in internet land might not know exactly what the basic units of computer storage are. So, bear with me. This will be a little bit of instruction.

The basic unit of storage for the information that makes up your song files, Word documents, whatever – is called a bit. Those are the most basic building blocks for that report you’re working on for the boss or that new Black Keys mp3 (which is awesome, by the way


Eight bits make up one byte. The “byte” will prove to be the basis for all the rest of the language we’re going to deal with. It’s very rare that you’ll see anything small enough in modern computing to have a size just in bytes; instead, the lowest you’ll see is probably the kilobyte.


There are 1,024 bytes in one kilobyte (usually abbreviated as a KB). To put that in perspective, your average Word document (of one or two pages) will run around 30-50 KB; a thumbnail picture on a website would probably be around the same size. However, we start to really jump up when we get into a megabyte.


This is starting to get into the big time now. One megabyte is equivalent to 1,048,576 bytes (or 1,024 kilobytes). My mp3 of Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” is about 3 MBs big. A podcast I have is about 12 MB. A ten-minute video I downloaded for a client (in relatively low quality) is about 50 MBs large. A full, hour-long episode of a television show (depending on quality) will usually be about 500-600 MB.


Beyond the megabyte is the gigabyte. You’ll often hear the gigabyte (or GB) discussed when talking about the TOTAL size of your hard drive (the actual space you have to store files). The current hard drive I have has 291 GB worth of space to store data, files, pictures, whatever I need. One gigabyte is equivalent to 1,073,741,824 bytes (or 1024 megabytes). If a file is expressed in gigabytes, it’s pretty darn big. For example, I have a classic baseball game downloaded from; it’s almost three hours long, in pretty good quality. It’s also 1.72 GB big. That’s gigantic.

There’s stuff that goes beyond that, of course (the terabyte, for one), but I’ll stop there for today, since the gigabyte is probably the largest file type you’ll deal with on a regular basis. I hope your head’s not spinning. Just keep all this information in mind when you’re ready to check out what plan is best for yourself or your company.


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