Consumers will store a third of their digital content in the cloud by 2016, driven mostly by smartphones and tablets.
New research by Gartner suggests that by currently around 7% of consumer content is stored in the cloud, this is expected to rise to 36% by 2016.
Much of this cloud usage is driven by mobile devices which are increasingly featuring built in cloud support. Apple's iPhones and iPads have the subscription service iCloud, while phones built by companies such as Samsung and HTC (running the Android OS) have cut deals with Dropbox, offering 25-50GB of storage free (for a limited time). Microsoft's Windows Phone devices link with its cloud service, Skydrive, to name a few examples.
Cloud is also ideal for mobile devices as they usually have limited on board storage (usually 16Gb to 64GB), so users storing gigabytes of movies, photos and documents in a virtual location, with ready access, makes sense.
Most services also have some cross over with the 'pro-sumer' market, and to an extent, enterprise.
The fact that mobile data plans have fallen drastically in price in the past few years, combined with mobile devices' increased multimedia capabilities, means that users are consuming, and producing far more content than ever before. Gartner predicts that worldwide consumer digital storage needs will grow from 329 exabytes in 2011 to 4.1 zettabytes in 2016. This includes digital content stored in PCs, smartphones, tablets, hard-disk drives (HDDs), network attached storage (NAS) and cloud services.
"Historically, consumers have generally stored content on their PCs, but as we enter the post-PC era, consumers are using multiple connected devices, the majority of which are equipped with cameras. This is leading to a massive increase in new user-generated content that requires storage," said Shalini Verma, principal research analyst at Gartner.
Cloud uptake has also been assisted by the HDD supply shortage following the flooding in Thailand, which saw an unusual overall growth rate between 2011 and 2012.
Gartner estimates the average storage per household to grow from 464 gigabytes in 2011 to 3.3 terabytes in 2016, and cloud will be needed to keep up with this demand.
On-premise storage will remain dominant for consumer digital content, but share will decline from 93% in 2011 to 64% in 2016, driven by the increased popularity of cloud in North America and Western Europe.