Have you ever had this sort of exchange with someone of an older generation?

You: “I’ve got 90 CDs’ worth of music on my iPod.”

Older Person: “But where are the CDs all stored?”

You: “They’re nowhere, they’re just… inside the iPod…”

Sometimes a little bit of confusion is right because, alas, those songs are not just ‘inside the iPod’.

These days, every time you download a song onto your phone, upload a photo to your profile or buy an e-book, it doesn’t just go onto your personal device, but is also downloaded and stored into ‘the cloud.’

What is the cloud?

The cloud, or cloud computing as it is often referred to, is a way of storing all your info - music, photos and documents, in one place so that they can be easily synced to and updated on all of your devices – your phone, music player and computer, for example.

So downloading a song onto your iPod (and onto the cloud) will mean you’ll be able to access it immediately on your computer and phone too.

It's really just a folder that is synchronized to store all your data somewhere else.

The cloud is also often used for companies to store your information so that is can be accessed anywhere. When you log onto Facebook, you’ll be able to access the same information anywhere in the world because it’s all stored in their cloud.

And, while you may think of your digital cloud of information as floating somewhere in the ether of an Apple technician’s brain, it is actually stored in very large data centres in America.

So that song that is just ‘inside your iPod’ actually looks something like this:

© Wikimedia/Tsalvati

The clouds growing on the horizon

Increasingly, the cloud is thought of as the most convenient data storage option. For obvious reason – it’s a great way of consolidating computing infrastructure.

However, this means that more and more information is being sent to these faceless data centres, like Apple’s upcoming iDataCenter in North Carolina in the US.

In fact, the cloud computing industry is expected to quadruple in the next ten years.

With so many centres running constantly, the cloud computing world runs up an enormous energy bill – some centres use up to 100 times more energy than a typical office building.

The information and communication technology industry currently accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Data centres alone make up 14% of this 2%. The quadrupling of this industry by 2020 means that data centres will soon be an incredibly dirty obstacle in the fight against climate change.

So while they’re a great addition to the growing realm of communication technology, and the cloud makes all our lives easier. It would be a simple, and very grand improvement to an expanding industry for the cloud to be powered by sustainable energy.

So next time you click ‘Buy’ on a digital download button and bask in the joy of being a green shopper because you’re not buying any physical materials, think how great it would be if you were able to truly green the whole experience – from click to computer to customer. Clean up the cloud now!

Clean up the dirtiest thing on the internet


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