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Powering The Cloud

Data uses power, so where does all this power come from?

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, Techno Mum and Sam are finding out about the power needed to make the internet available to everyone.

Powering Technology

red and gray train rail

Your computer and mobile phone both need electricity to work. And all the work that they do – enabling us to communicate, accessing the internet, uploading images and downloading documents – uses a lot of data. 

The data comes from Data Centres! Very… Large… Data… Centres… which use a LOT of power. Each centre typically uses more than 30 Giga watts of electricity per year. That’s a lot – about £4m worth. 

The entire data centre industry uses over 90 BILLION kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. That’s roughly 34 fossil fuel power stations. Globally, it’s estimated that 12 percent of all electricity goes through data centres and that’s set to rise dramatically as more and more data is used.

Why does data take so much power?

computer coding screengrab

You might not think an email or cute cat meme would take a lot of energy but when the whole world is using the internet it all adds up.

There’s a number of reasons why energy use is so high – and growing. Not only do servers and other critical pieces of IT equipment require a lot of energy to work, but so do all of the other necessary equipment. Lights, cooling systems, monitors, humidifiers – all need electricity, and all are needed to make sure that the systems run effectively and efficiently.

We’re using increasing amounts of data every year so more and more servers are needed in the data centres, increasing the demand for electricity.

Data is really important and has revolutionised life and helped economies to grow, it’s actually not bad value for money. Plus because the amount of electricity needed is so big, it means companies are working hard to find efficiencies to reduce their bills.

What’s more, over 75% of energy used by the UK’s 450 commercial data centres is certified 100% renewable. So at the end of the day, each email generates far less emissions than if you posted a letter.


photo of outer space

HYPERSCALE Data Centres are filled with thousands and thousands of servers!

HYPERSCALE data centres were developed when firms like Facebook, Amazon and Google needed centres with a quarter of a million servers or more. By sharing knowledge, they developed cool new ways to save power – like creating bare bone servers. They took out absolutely everything that wasn’t needed – like video hardware and connectors, displays and blinking lights. If there’s no one there to look at them, why have them!

It makes sense for data centres be as energy efficient as possible, and to help create a fair and sustainable world.

This helps make the internet available to people all over the world so they can communicate, study, work and play in a truly global community.

What can we learn from HYPERSCALE Data Centres?

Just like the hyperscale data centres, all of us can help save electricity by making sure things are switched off when we’re not using them. Too many of us leave gadgets and electrical items on standby – that’s when there’s often a little red light glowing. By switching them off totally, you can save a few pounds. If we all did this, well those few pounds would amount to quite a lot!

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!

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