Every letter or number you type online takes up approximately one byte of storage in the cloud. And all your tweets, emails, and other assorted pieces of data end up being stored in vast centers requiring unfathomable amounts of energy. The New York Times investigated the huge amounts of power that go into the sprawling server farms that backup your emails, Dropbox, Pinterest, and everything Google, all of which require equally massive and expensive cooling systems to keep them humming along. Here, a brief look at the eye-popping numbers:
Bytes used to store a single letter or number
Gigabytes required to store for one billion bytes of information
Gigabytes used by a "data-intensive customer" who stored a lot of data in server farms 10 years ago
Gigabytes processed and housed in data centers during the creation of a single 3D-animated movie today
Gigabytes of data produced each day by the New York Stock Exchange
Watts of electricity used by digital warehouses worldwide, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants
Kilowatt-hours used by data centers nationwide in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the United States
Average watts of power consumed by Google's data centers, according to a recent disclosure that didn't specify a timeframe
Average watts of power consumed by Facebook's data centers, also according to the recent disclosure
Percentage of total electricity used that is wasted by these data centers, says The New York Times, which, "by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner" because they run at maximum capacity "around the clock, whatever the demand." In many instances, these data centers pull in more electricity than a "medium-sized town," says Eric Limer at Gizmodo.
6 to 12
Percentage of electricity powering servers that perform actual tasks, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. "The rest were essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surf in activity that could slow or crash their operations," says the Times.
Federal data centers owned by the government in 1998
Federal data centers owned by the government in in 2010
Homes that could be powered by backup diesel gas-powered generators that data centers sometimes use if there's an outage
Air quality regulations cited to Amazon over a three-year period in Northern Virginia, allegedly for using said diesel generators without obtaining proper environmental permits first
Watts of electricity most data centers in Northern Virginia now consume
Watts of electricity these same data centers could be consuming by 2017
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