How Much Data Is There?

11/17/2009 15:12

I get asked quite often to give a "ballpark" of how much data is on a machine or on media.  As part of our business, we are often running estimates on page counts prior to actually digging in and looking at the paper or electronic documents.  Traditionally, estimating a page count was easy with paper.  We could assume about 2500 pages per banker box and feel comfortable with the call. 

With data, it is entirely different.  Because of the various types of files, some containing tables or spreadsheets, others with images, it becomes an exercise in finger-crossing when it comes to estimating page count.  Obviously, the data can be loaded and looked at, and there are a wide variety of excellent tools in the market that can provide extremely accurate details of a data population.  However, when you don't have the data in your possession, estimating is trickier.

By far, the most common type of electronically stored information involved in litigation is emails.  Since it helps clients so much for planning purposes to have a ballpark, we've become pretty accurate in providing page estimates for data populations of emails.  Based on experience and discussions with a variety of legal practitioners and technologists, I'm comfortable providing these guidelines:

1MB is about 60 pages of emails

640MB standard CD is about 39,000 pages of emails

1GB is about 60,000 pages of emails

40GB hard drive is about 2.4M pages of emails

These are rough numbers, but fairly safe.  It is always a good idea to guess a little higher when budgeting time and money, so round up.  If we can help with any planning or answer questions related to handling ESI, just let us know.