Can we run out of Internet?

As technology improves and the internet of things becoming more ubiquitous, we take a look the concept of running out of internet.

As little as ten years ago, you couldn’t discover news things like you can today and whether you consider this to be a curse or a blessing, the content available on the Internet has changed dramatically over the last few years.

Back in the ‘Mad Men’ era of content, in the 1950’s and 60’s, content was built for marketing in a poster and paper type fashion, with a heavy focus on radio. Now, everything is moving digitally whether these guys like it or not, and you need a really good website to survive out there.

According to We Are Social’s figures, Internet users have grown by 82 per cent (that is around 1.7 billion people) since the beginning of January 2012. Another 1.3 billion people (and their pets) have started using social media in the past five years, that’s around eight new users every second. When you picture how many more people that means are consuming content, it proves how there needs to be new, fresh and exciting content out there, day in and day out to capture their attention.

So, with this in mind, have you thought lately just how big the void is that the Internet fills? Ink supplier Toner Giant have run some numbers and it turns out, if we were to print the entire Internet, you could get to the moon and back 107 times on a bridge of paper. Considering the growth of the Internet in such a short space of time, you really have to wonder whether it’s sustainable to carry on expanding at such a fast rate.

It’s easier to understand this growth if we look at the Internet not as users, but as data. Every second, around 6,000 tweets go into the Twitter feed, 40,000 searches are sent through Google and more than million emails are sent. Researchers spent seven years looking into how much ‘stuff’ there was on the Internet, and they came to the conclusion that there were around 4.66 billion Web pages online in March 2016, not including the Dark Web.

Now, this is where it starts to get confusing, Live Science reports ‘In 2014, researchers published a study in the journal Supercomputing Frontiers and Innovations estimating the storage capacity of the Internet at 10^24 bytes, or 1 million Exabytes.’

A byte surmounts to a data unit made up of eight different bits and is equal to one character say for instance the letter A. An Exabyte is one billion billion bytes and there are a million Exabaytes, probably much more than currently on the Internet. That’s an awful lot of storage taking up space on what we just see as ‘the Internet’.

To think that the Internet is stored, in essence, on servers in big warehouses, makes us ask the question: could we run out of land space before we run out of space on the Internet? There are currently 252 data centres in the UK, but Cisco project that that number is going to triple in the next five years to accommodate growing numbers of Internet users. It’s also worth noting that these data centres don’t run themselves, they need energy and although most are looking to green energy, this takes time, which at the minute, we don’t have.

If we look at Google’s data centres alone, there are eight listed in the U.S., one in South America, four in Europe and two in Asia but the cloud sites aren’t easy to measure and they are worldwide. Each of these data centres are well over 100,000 square feet with one in Oklahoma measuring an enormous 980,000 sq ft. Google do not disclose the finer details of their data centres, but estimates can be reached through announcements on expansions.

Due to the sheer size of Google’s data centres, it has led to them buying more renewable energy that any other corporation in the world. Data Centre Knowledge reports, ‘Google has signed 20 purchase agreements for 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. This means that, while renewable energy may not be available everywhere or in the quantities Google needs, Google purchases the same amount of renewable energy as it consumes.’

Google know that renewable energy takes funding and time so they are pumping money into that industry as well, with a reported $2.5 billion in equity funding to develop solar and wind energy across the globe. Whether renewable energy can respond to the funds it is being fed is yet to be seen. Perhaps Toner Giant’s calculations are telling, and if the Internet can already reach the moon and back 107 times, is it time it booked a one-way ticket and we moved data centres to the moon?

Further reading on using the internet

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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