The internet is massive, it facilitates the majority of our lives nowadays, storing insane amount of data in some mysterious place we tend not to bother thinking about. But the storage of all of that data means that we should ask the question, how much energy does the internet use?
When we think about data storage today, most of the internet uses something known to us as ‘the cloud’ but while this seems like all our data sits up in space somewhere, they are actually stored on many physical drives sitting somewhere that need constant managing and maintenance.
Data centres are essentially giant warehouses storing hundreds of servers that are designed to store the internet’s ‘cloud’ data and release it quickly and easily upon demand. They hold all of the information contained in the internet. so basically they hold all of the information in the world. Transferring all of this data uses a phenomenal amount of energy, by 2013 these servers were using about 28,000 gigabytes of data per second and this has done nothing but increase in the following years.
When it comes to actual energy, in 2011 the internet was recorded to be using about 2% of the worlds energy, and again, this has definitely increased since then. This isn’t even counting the energy needed to keep these data centres cool. Using computers generates heat, henchmen why all good computers are fitted with cooling fans to help keep the hard drive and components cool and running efficiently. Even when a server in a data centre isn’t active, it is still ‘on call’ to be used at any time and so still generates heat.
It is predicted that by 2020 data centres will use over 140 kilowatts per hour every year. To generate the energy needed for that would take 51 large coal-fired plants. There are plans to reduce the amount of energy consumed by the internet and the arrangement of cooling systems and severs and it seems that tackling the amount of energy used by data centres is our way forward.