What happens to all the digital files out there and do we just keep making more storage?


I just uploaded a file on a ‘gig’ website for some help in cleaning up some audio from an interview that I did. The amount of data on those servers has to be overwhelming and that got me thinking… do we just keep making more storage? Where does all of that data go and do we just plan on storing that stuff indefinitely?

In: Technology

Storage happens on physical servers (in basic terms, think, hard drives and solid state drives). Over time, companies need more storage, so they expand how much they have by physically installing more devices or replacing old devices with new ones that have more storage capacity.

> Where does all of that data go and do we just plan on storing that stuff indefinitely?

Really depends on the service. A lot of file transfer services will automatically delete a file after a certain amount of time, at least if it’s “inactive” and hasn’t been used in a while.

If the service goes out of business then the data can just be lost altogether.

Nowadays you can get a shit ton of storage for not too much money. The average user generates more income for the host than they cost in server space, which allows them to buy more space if they ever need it. And yeah we basically just keep making more storage space. You run out of space in a box? You buy another box.

> do we just keep making more storage?

Yes. And disks keep getting bigger. Back when I started working with computers, my hard disk was 170MB. Then we got into the GB range (1000 MB). And then TB (1000 GB). These days you can buy a single drive that holds 16TB. You can buy a single computer that holds 60 drives, giving you the capacity of 960 TB in a single box.

You then stack those boxes on top of each other, [like this](https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7b/1f/62/7b1f629fa44ba9a7bed306cef52a7208.jpg). And then put a bunch of those in a room, [like this](https://cdn9.dissolve.com/p/D538_277_027/D538_277_027_1200.jpg)

> Where does all of that data go

Computers in datacenters, like in the picture above.

> and do we just plan on storing that stuff indefinitely?

Generally no, only as long as it’s profitable. If somebody offers to store your data for free, they must benefit from it somehow. For instance, by serving ads to people who view your files, or tracking your activity.

Yep, we do.

Storage is actually pretty cheap. When people design databases, basically the least important question is “how are we going to get enough disk space to store this information?”

> do we just plan on storing that stuff indefinitely?

Well, storage is cheap, not free. As long as we keep paying for it, then yeah.

Your files are stored on servers – which are just computers made to process data and store it. Somewhere in the depths of a data center (think massive room full of computers in racks) there is that embarrassing video that you made a decade ago that you just haven’t deleted yet.

If you want more storage, you just add more hardware – like extra servers and more storage.

As an extra: With current predictions we reckon that at some point we will have too much data to be able to store it on current technologies. For this reason, some companies – including Microsoft – are working on storing data in glass using light.
Really cool stuff.