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How much data is produced every day?

How much data is produced every day?

Posted on 19th March 2020

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The coronavirus crisis is obviously having and effect on us all.  However, business must go on whenever it can, so as well as our updates on the #ITjobs market and how we are coping at Be-IT (very well so far!), we're not going to stop publishing our normal, full range of articles on a wide range of IT topics, starting with this one from Paul.

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT

My colleague, Matt Druce, recently told us that it takes the entire energy supply of Chile to produce every bitcoin transaction in one year. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to find out how much more I don’t know about data and how much power it takes to produce it. So, without further ado, here is a pot-pourri of entertaining nonsense about data and power…

Let’s start with how much data we produce globally.  It’s about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data produced every day in the world. No, I didn’t know there was a number called a quintillion either.  For your information, it is a very, very, very big number, featuring 18 zeros. 

The Word document on which this blog was written takes up a miniscule 15KB of disk space on my Mac. I tried to work out how many articles like this could be produced if that entire 2.5 quillion bytes were used for that purpose and, while I may be wrong as I ran out of fingers, I reckon it’s 1,670,000,000,000,000,000. If I tried to print that many, I reckon my printer would explode. 

Next, I Googled “how much energy do Google’s servers use?”  Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot. An estimate in 2017 claimed that the amount of power required to run Google’s servers is 2.26 million megawatts per year – enough to keep 200,000 homes going for the same time.  I wonder if they go on to see if they can get a better deal each year?

Facebook, in contrast, uses a wee bit more than Google, at about 3.43 million megawatts per year. Between them and Google they could power over 20% of the houses in Scotland.

When we come to the internet as a whole, it uses a bit more than 10% of the world’s energy consumption, up from c. 8% in 2012.  Despite what you might think, the most common use of the internet is sending email.  Two years ago, there were 3.8BN email users across the world and despite the rise of social media, email users are expected to increase to c. 4.4BN in 2023.

And finally, because I need to get back to my day job, here’s one last statistic that makes the consumption of energy by Google et al seem positively teensy.  Never mind the millions of megawatts used up by the big digital companies.  They are rank amateurs beside the biggest star in our energy production system.  Did you know the sun produces the equivalent of 38,460 SEPTILLION watts – that’s 3.846 x 1026 watts) PER SECOND.  That’s almost enough to power a Metallica gig.

Paul Strachan, Be-IT


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