Will we ever run out of cloud storage?

Amazon, Google, Microsoft are all in the running to provide cloud storage for the umpteen amount of data spread across globally. A simple solution to device storage limit is overcome by this unseen space, which zaps up and protects our information. This pool may be called the cloud, but in reality, it’s just a bunch of servers hanging around in a large cold room. So the question is, is this space unlimited or can it ever run out?

To answer this let us first understand who is using the cloud:
Spotify, Netflix, Pinterest, Mc Donalds, Uber to name a few, all rely on cloud services to be omnipresent in the virtual world.
The use of cloud services can be broken down into three main categories.
First, we have, software as a service which includes a range of applications which we all use available over the internet such as Google Drive, Netflix, Gmail, DropBox, Spotify and the likes. Next we have platform as a service such as the Google App Engine which offers virtual machines to develop and deploy code and lastly infrastructure as a service such as Amazon EC2 which are relied on by various small, medium and large-sized enterprises (including Instagram before the Facebook acquisition) to host applications to enhance their computing power, storage and hardware limitations by providing a virtualized environment.

So with these three categories taken into consideration, at present roughly 3.6 billion consumers are in some ways using the cloud.



Next, How much data is there?
This is hard to examine but let us just consider our daily examples. Roughly 15.2 million text messages are sent every minute, Instagram users post nearly 46000 pictures every minute, Facebook users click the like button on more than 4 million posts per minute and the cloud also deals with 10 lakh emails every minute that is just spam.
Its impossible to account for all the data but with WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, youtube, twitter to name a few at present, but it is estimated that by 2020 we will be generating 40 zettabytes of data a year which is roughly 40 billion terabytes.

However, not all of what is stored in the cloud is really useful, is it? But data is a priority, and it seems as though enterprises have vowed to let none of the data generated go to waste.

So where is this data actually stored?
It is all backed up and stacked up on servers essentially mapped to hard drives at established data centers strategically distributed over the globe. These data centers are enormous stretches of racks consisting of 50000 or more servers connected to clusters of networks. A client computer at a remote location can access these servers over the network, which forms the backbone of the cloud platform.

So now back to the question of “Unlimited Storage”
Theoretically speaking, unlimited storage does not exist in the physical world. There is a limited capacity to build servers with limited fiber optic cables, limited bandwidth, limited semiconductors to build chips and limited manpower. This limit is evidently extremely high, but cannot be penned as unlimited.

However, the largest data center in the world can store about 1 billion terabytes of data and there are hundreds of data centers around the globe. So clearly we’re doing quite well. Although theoretically speaking, it is possible that this limit could be reached but we have skilled and clever professionals manning the data centers round the clock to ensure that such a scenario is not attained. In the event that our current storage is running out, cloud providers will probably simply create more data centers or add more servers to make space for more selfies and memes. This is obviously subject to conditions that electricity and massive empty land areas are available.

So practically speaking, we need not worry about having our head in the clouds just yet. Even if the cloud does let us down in the future, other possibilities of quantum and DNA computing are being explored. In the meantime, we can all just sit back with Netflix and Chill.



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