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A World of Information

Where is all our data stored?

Imagine a future where technology could help create a more equal world. Imagine a school where you could learn alongside children from every country you can think of.  

Well that’s what World School is all about.

In this episode of Techno Mum’s World School we are finding out how technology can help create the huge amounts of digital storage needed to create a more fair world.

From gigabytes to clouds – the future of technology is all about data storage.

The Cloud

person holding pencil near laptop computer

Have you heard of The Cloud?

The Cloud isn’t a fluffy white thing in the sky. It’s somewhere you can store photos, documents, videos and downloads. Unlike saving something to your computer or phone, when you upload to the cloud you can access your things from anywhere.

The Cloud is made up of enormous data centres holding information for the billions who use the internet every second.

It’s estimated that the world’s data storage capacity is currently about 295 exabytes – that’s 295 BILLION gigabytes! If you put all of that data onto blu-ray disks, you’d have a stack of discs that would stretch way past the moon.

Could data storage run out?

electronic wire lot

It is a possibility that data storage could run out.

If it did, things would be much harder – because computing power, communicating digitally and storing information online makes life a lot easier and more efficient.

If we had to limit how much data storage each person got how would we decide? It would be unfair if only rich countries had access to The Cloud.

It’s important that we have enough storage for everyone – and in a way that’s sustainable for the future. Fortunately, technology companies are working on some pretty exciting new ways to store data.  

The Future of Data Storage

One hot new technology is called Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording. It uses lasers to spot-heat small sections of a computer’s internal disk. Heating these sections changes the amount of magneticity which enables more data to be stored in a smaller area. Remember those blu-ray discs extending past the moon? Well, if you recorded all of the books ever written, you’d only need 20 HAMR devices to store all the data! 

Helium is a gas that’s lighter than air! We can use helium to save on the electricity needed to store data. Sealing computer drives in helium means there’s less friction – and that means less electrical power is needed and more data can be stored. 

We could even use DNA to store data. Biological material in the chains of DNA could be used for storage. One gram of DNA has the ability to store up to 215 petabytes of data, although it’s a painstaking process that requires scientists for every step. At the moment that technology is very new.

Something called 5-D glass could also be used to store data. Lasers can create tiny physical 5D structures inside glass called nanogratings. Computers read these by looking at their orientation – their location on the x, y, and z axes, and the strength of their light refraction. Glass disks can store up to 360 terabytes of data. They won’t degrade for billions of years and can withstand very high temperatures.  

Think about how you use data on the internet and how life would be different without it – you’d have to carry books to school, visit a library to find things out and stick to board games!

Created with the support from The Institution of Engineering and Technology.

For more information visit The IET.

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Techno Mum

Ever wondered how things work? Ask Techno Mum!

More From Techno Mum