The Dark Side of Data

As you probably know, data use and storage are exploding around the world.

There are an estimated 1.5 Billion smart phones in use around the world. And people with smart phones love to upload pics, connect on social media, play games, and watch videos. I’ve uploaded hundreds (thousands?) of photos myself!

There is a dark side to this explosion of data.

The Dark Side of Data

Image source; Google, data center, The Dalles, Oregon

With smartphones, blogging, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify and You Tube, let alone business use, data storage is growing like a cancer. The cloud language makes it sound rather mild and harmless. Or like there isn’t any physical place that our data is stored. But that isn’t true.

“Cloud storage” is actually data stored in very large, complex and energy intensive data centers. They are often built and operated in the middle of nowhere. Just the construction and operating costs are mind boggling. But the most amazing part is the energy use. All those servers, switches, routers and people use a lot of energy, not just to operate, but to keep the buildings cool to prevent the equipment from overheating.

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid. NY Times – 9/22/2012.

Many industry insiders believe that the data storage can’t keep up with the data use, especially under the current conditions of energy use, idle machines and demand for instant data and communication. For more dark aspects to these data centers, read this well researched article from the NY Times called Power, Pollution and the Internet.

 A single data center can use more power than a medium-size town. – Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers.

Google to the rescue?

Did you know that Google has invested almost 1 Billion dollars in renewable energy? They have many wonderful reasons for their investments like being sustainable, innovation, making money and investing for the future. The cold reality might be that they understand how critical it is to find better ways to produce energy and manage data centers. Google is working hard to offset the massive energy consumption of it’s data centers with renewable energy. Recent Google data centers feature improved energy efficiency, power management and energy generation. However, many companies do not have the resources to buy the new energy efficient equipment and systems. Here is more background on the efficiency of data centers, which seems to be getting worse in the US.

Fortunately, Google isn’t the only company working to improve energy efficiency. Apple, Facebook, Wal-Mart and many large corporations have joined the movement to be much more efficient and sustainable in their energy use. Hurry please!

This is my first post to look at the darker side of life. I will keep inspiring you with Awesome Stories from around the world, but I thought it might be good to take a peek at some the bigger challenges facing us. My intention is that they become fuel for creativity, learning and growth. What do you think? Are you ready to look at some of the challenges together? Or shall I stick to inspiring you?

Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂 I’d love your feedback in the commet section. Thanks!

8 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Data

  1. I appreciate this info Brad… I was somewhat aware of this issue but not fully, and it’s such an important one that people tend to bypass; not want to think about. Your clear and succinct description is helpful in spreading the knowledge. Sigh…. another area where humanity ignores the shadow side of some new ‘progress’ and adds more ‘problems’!
    And I’m glad to hear the hopeful news about Google etc. … I will envision that a solution CAN be found.


    • Hi Leslie, yes, the wonderful shadow. I didn’t want to get lost in it, just acknowledge it as well as the progress in addressing it by big corporations. You & I are the only likes on this post, so that might be telling me to stick to inspiring stories! I appreciate you. Brad


  2. Hello, Brad! Although I must confess my attraction to your feel-good stories, I found this to be very interesting — and you did end on an up note! 🙂 For the record, I still have a Razr phone (seriously!), but this blogging thing may be my downfall. Eek! I may have to retire sooner than later…


    • Thanks Shauna. I prefer the feel good ones too and am clear that my main focus is to inspire people! 🙂 Retire from your flying so you can write more? Sounds fun. I’m feeling the urge to write some poetry!


      • I wish!! No, retire from blogging so I can help save the planet — oh, and work on my manuscript, which has been neglected as of late. Yes, please write some poetry. I always LOVE!!


  3. It’s a quandary, we don’t really need more info in our lives or the “cloud”. But we need connection, and writing is one way we do that. I personally enjoy your writing very much. If we had self-hosted sites, then I believe we’re not adding to the data issue ( ignoring Facebook updates and pics!). Currently, mine is a free one that WordPress hosts and stores the data for me!


  4. The wind farm will save the company in energy utilities, as will its location in the far north of Scandinavia, whose icy climate will help to natural cool the overheated processors in the data center.


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