Examples of the use of the petabyte to describe data sizes in different fields are:
- Telecommunications (capacity): The world's effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication networks was 281 petabytes of information in 1986, 471 petabytes in 1993, 2,200 petabytes in 2000, and 65,000 petabytes in 2007 (this is the informational equivalent to every person exchanging 6 newspapers per day).
- Telecommunications (usage): In 2008, AT&T transferred about 30 petabytes of data through its networks each day. That number grew to 197 petabytes daily by March 2018.
- Email: In May 2013, Microsoft announces that as part of their migration of Hotmail accounts to the new Outlook.com email service, they migrated over 150 petabytes of user data in six weeks.
- File sharing (centralized): At its 2012 closure of file storage services, Megaupload held ~28 petabytes of user uploaded data.
- File sharing (peer-to-peer): 2013 - BitTorrent Sync has transferred over 30 petabytes of data since its pre-alpha release in January 2013.
- National Library: The American Memory digital archive of public domain resources hosted by the United States Library of Congress contained 15 million digital objects in 2016, comprising over 7 petabytes of digital data.
- Video streaming: As of May 2013[update], Netflix had 3.14 petabytes of video "master copies", which it compresses and converts into 100 different formats for streaming.
- Photos: As of January 2013[update], Facebook users had uploaded over 240 billion photos, with 350 million new photos every day. For each uploaded photo, Facebook generates and stores four images of different sizes, which translated to a total of 960 billion images and an estimated 357 petabytes of storage.
- Music: One petabyte of average MP3-encoded songs (for mobile, roughly one megabyte per minute), would require 2000 years to play.
- Steam, a digital distribution service, delivers over 16 petabytes of content to American users weekly.
- Physics: The experiments in the Large Hadron Collider produce about 15 petabytes of data per year, which are distributed over the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid. In July 2012 it was revealed that CERN amassed about 200 petabytes of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions looking for the Higgs boson. The Large Hadron Collider is also able to produce 1 petabyte of data per second, but most of it is filtered out.
- Neurology: It is estimated that the human brain's ability to store memories is equivalent to about 2.5 petabytes of binary data.
- Video: Uncompressed 1080p 30 fps HD RGB video (1920x1080 pixels / 3 bytes per pixel) running for 100 years would amount to approximately 600 PB of data.
- "The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information", Martin Hilbert and Priscila López (2011), Science, 332(6025), 60-65; see also "free access to the study" and "video animation".
- "AT&T- News Room". Att.com. 23 October 2008. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- Gallagher, Ryan; Moltke, Henrik (25 June 2018). "The NSA's Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight U.S. Cities". The Intercept. Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
As of March 2018, some 197 petabytes of data – the equivalent of more than 49 trillion pages of text, or 60 billion average-sized mp3 files – traveled across its networks every business day.
- "Outlook.com: 400 million active accounts, Hotmail upgrade complete and more features on the way".
- "Być może odzyskasz swoje pliki z Megaupload - Tech - WP.PL". Tech. Archived from the original on 19 December 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
- "Version 1.2 of BitTorrent Sync Now Available as Free File Syncing Tool Reaches 1 Million Users". 6 November 2013. Archived from the original on 11 June 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- Chayka, Kyle (14 July 2016). "The Library of Last Resort". n+1 Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- Vance, Ashlee (9 May 2013). "Netflix, Reed Hastings Survive Missteps to Join Silicon Valley's Elite". Businessweek. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- Miller, Rich. "Facebook Builds Exabyte Data Centers for Cold Storage". Datacenterknowledge.com. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- Leung, Leo. "How much data does x store?". Techexpectations.org. Retrieved 21 May 2014.[dead link]
- "What does a petabyte look like?". Archived from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- "Steam ISP stats lay Australia's dire internet connectivity bare". PC Gamer.
- "3 October 2008 - CERN: Let the number-crunching begin: the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid celebrates first data". Interactions.org. Archived from the original on 1 June 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- "Big Data Software Problem Behind CERN's Higgs Boson Hunt". Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- "CERN Data Centre passes the 200-petabyte milestone". CERN. Archived from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
- Reber, Paul (2 April 2013). "What Is the Memory Capacity of the Human Brain?". Scientific American. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
- Wickman, Forrest (24 April 2012). "Your Brain's Technical Specs". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 31 March 2017.