13,880,000,000. That’s the number of results that come up when I google, well, “google.” It’s common knowledge that Google stores an almost unfathomable amount of information, but where exactly does it all come from? Most people probably don’t think about how Google can tell us the seven variations of Persian cats in under five seconds, but knowing where and how it keeps its data allows us insight into what makes this company so important.
Over the past several years, Google has expanded its software capabilities to include maps, a document sharing program, and even a cloud-type technology where all your information can be accessed on any device. What really sets Google apart, however, is its hardware. For a company that isn’t known for its sleekly designed machines like Apple, Google seriously invests in manufacturing its own hardware for over 900,000 servers to fill around 40 data centers around the world. These centers are filled with multiple containers, which each currently hold 1,160 servers.
Even though Google usually does not disclose the exact numbers and locations of all of their servers, impressively energy efficient technology has given the company a reason to boast. Its immense data storage, while only using less than 1% of the energy used by all data centers, has been calculated down to a science. Now don’t let that fool you -- a newer data center in the city of The Dalles, Oregon uses 103 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 82,000 homes.
Before getting into an ethical debate about energy usage, we have to consider the sheer amount of information that Google stores in its servers. Unfortunately, the tech powerhouse remains tight-lipped about the exact number of bytes. Most people seem to be more concerned with how much energy Google is using to not just keep the servers on, but to regulate their temperatures and build the data centers that shelter them. Each server even features its own 12-volt battery just in case the main power supply goes out.
Since Google has a partial monopoly over the Internet, considering its ownership of YouTube, Gmail, Google+, Chrome, etc., it keeps quiet about the exact locations of every data center. We do know that there are at least fifteen to twenty centers in the United States, and around twenty more across Europe, South America, and Asia.
There is no sign that Google will be putting the brakes on server building any time soon. Developers are currently working on a program called Spanner that will be able to automatically manage and update multiple data centers with even more servers, connecting all of Google’s information in unprecedented ways.
Both tech junkies and novice Googlers alike have a hard time wrapping their heads around just how much information falls under the Google name. The bottom line is that while you may not associate the Internet staple with top secret information, when it comes down to where their hundreds of thousands of servers are stored, Google has no issue laying very low, reinforcing its power and protecting the sacred name.