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The massive amount of energy powering your wireless storage: By the numbers
Every tweet, email, and instant message you send is stored in a nebulous, invisible entity called the cloud — and all that data sucks up a lot of electricity
Facebook's newest data center in Forest City, N.C.: The information generated by the site's nearly one billion users requires these outsize server facilities.
Facebook's newest data center in Forest City, N.C.: The information generated by the site's nearly one billion users requires these outsize server facilities.
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images
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very 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:

1
Bytes used to store a single letter or number

1
Gigabytes required to store for one billion bytes of information

50,000 
Gigabytes used by a "data-intensive customer" who stored a lot of data in server farms 10 years ago

1 million
Gigabytes processed and housed in data centers during the creation of a single 3D-animated movie today

2,000
Gigabytes of data produced each day by the New York Stock Exchange

30 billion
Watts of electricity used by digital warehouses worldwide, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants

76 billion
Kilowatt-hours used by data centers nationwide in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the United States

300 million
Average watts of power consumed by Google's data centers, according to a recent disclosure that didn't specify a timeframe

60 million
Average watts of power consumed by Facebook's data centers, also according to the recent disclosure

90
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

432
Federal data centers owned by the government in 1998

2,094
Federal data centers owned by the government in in 2010

7,000
Homes that could be powered by backup diesel gas-powered generators that data centers sometimes use if there's an outage

24
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

500 million
Watts of electricity most data centers in Northern Virginia now consume

1 billion
Watts of electricity these same data centers could be consuming by 2017

Read the entire article at The New York Times.

Sources: The New York Times, Forbes, Gizmodo

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