In 2006, 161 exabytes (billion gigabytes) of digital information were created and copied, continuing an unprecedented period of information growth, new research by IDC has found.

The analyst firm revealed the findings of EMC-sponsored research, warning the growth in unstructured digital data and other media – equivalent to 12 stacks of books, each extending more than 93 million miles from the earth to the sun – could put unprecedented strain on corporate IT systems.

‘The Expanding Digital Universe: A Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth Through 2010’ [www.emc.com/about/destination/digital_universe] projects a six-fold annual information growth from 2006 to 2010. While nearly 70% of digital content will be generated by individuals, organisations will be responsible for the security, privacy, reliability and compliance of at least 85% of the information. And the amount of information created and copied in 2010 will surge more than six fold to 988 exabytes, a compound annual growth rate of 57%.

IDC also estimates that today less than 10% of organisational information is “classified,” or ranked according to value. IDC expects the amount of classified data to grow better than 50% a year.

It said growing use of the internet at broadband speeds and their speed of adoption in emerging economies will swell the amount of media, video, emails and instant messages created and stored.

John Gantz, IDC chief research officer and senior vice president said: “Organisations will need to employ ever-more sophisticated techniques to transport, store, secure and replicate the additional information that is being generated every day.”