Will the Internet Ever Run Out of Space?

Will the Internet Ever Run Out of Space

Humanity creates large amounts of data daily, and all that data needs to be stored somewhere. The internet is a network of computers that stretches globally, and it is. But will there ever be a point in time where the internet runs out of space?

The internet will not run out of space if technology continues to improve. However, humans produce mind-boggling amounts of data per day that needs storage. Over the next five years, global data is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes, and the amount keeps increasing. 

Although the internet keeps expanding, there’s no risk of running out of space if technology keeps up. This article will explain what the internet is and highlight some cutting-edge technologies helping us make giant strides in data storage. Keep reading to find out more.

What Is the Internet?

The internet refers to a connection between computer networks and other electronic devices, stretching globally, making it possible to communicate, share, and store information. 

The internet uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and their devices. It allows people to exchange ideas, learn new concepts, and make money while working from anywhere in the world.

Will the Internet Run Out of Space?

Will the Internet Run Out of Space?
Will the Internet Run Out of Space?

The Internet can only run out of space if one of the following happens:

  • The global electrical power grid stops working.
  • Data centers stop working. 
  • So much data is created that it can not be stored with current technology.
  • Internet Service Providers cannot provide service.

The Internet is defined as a network of computers that exist worldwide, so as long as our computer network keeps working and expanding, the internet will not run out of space. 

However, as the world becomes more dependent on the Internet and its connections, it stresses the system. With the expanded growth and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), The Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data analytics, data growth is exploding.

We are currently in the “Zettabyte Era,” and as more data is produced every day, we could theoretically run out of storage space. But the chances of running out of space are very slim as technology evolves every day to accommodate the number of data humans produce, so there’s no risk.

How Big is a Zettabyte of Data

A zettabyte is read as the 2 to the 70th power bytes, and one zettabyte has 21 zeros. 1021 (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) bytes. A Zettabyte is equal to a thousand exabytes, a billion terabytes, or a trillion gigabytes.

Since much electronic Data is not saved, currently, all the data in the world is estimated to be only a few zettabytes. However, the data is forecasted to continue to grow at an exponential rate. How long until we get to a Yottabyte? That remains to be seen.

“In 2020, 64.2ZB of data was created or replicated, defying the systemic downward pressure asserted by the COVID-19 pandemic on many industries, and its impact will be felt for several years,” said Dave Reinsel, senior vice president, IDC’s Global DataSphere. “The amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data created since the advent of digital storage. The question is: How much of it should be stored?”

Data Creation and Replication Will Grow at a Faster Rate than Installed Storage Capacity, According to the IDC Global DataSphere and StorageSphere Forecasts
  • Mega – 1,000,000; a Megabyte is a million bytes.
  • Giga – 1,000,000,000; a Gigabyte is a billion bytes.
  • Tera – 1,000,000,000,000; a Terabyte is a trillion bytes.
  • Peta – 1,000,000,000,000,000; a Petabyte is 1,000 Terabytes.
  • Exa – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000; an Exabyte is 1,000 Petabytes.
  • Zetta – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000; a Zettabyte is 1,000 Exabytes.
  • Yotta – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000; a Yottabyte is 1,000 Zettabytes.

Can the Internet Be Shut Down?

Can the Internet Be Shut Down?
Can the Internet Be Shut Down?

The internet was originally conceptualized for the U.S. Military by a program called (Arpanet) Advanced Research Projects Agency Network and was a U.S. Defense Department research project.

A researcher named Paul Baran was trying to figure out how to create a communication system that would survive a nuclear attack on the United States. The Internet was designed as a mesh network broken up into blocks or packets.

So the current global internet is pretty resilient and multifaceted and was purposely built that way. There are, however, governments that have shut down or restricted the internet in their countries. War could also shut down the Internet in places, but it is unlikely to be shut down globally.

Countries That Have Shut Down Or Disrupted Their Internets

  • China
  • Ethiopia
  • India
  • Iran
  • Myanmar
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • Uganda
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen

Are We Running Out of Internet?

Running out is different from reaching limits because network capacity can vary greatly between carriers, cities, and countries. We have all hit peak demand when your internet slows down or even stops. Even though carriers don’t want to talk about it, bottlenecks are common.

With the advent of 5G, that spectrum, we will see new challenges that have never been explored with data capacity and internet access. Currently, we are not running out of internet, but we do reach limits at times. As long as new and better ways of storing and transferring information are created, the internet will always likely be there, increasing its capacity. 

A total of 16,777,214 devices can use one IP address on Class A Addresses, so there’s no chance of running out of IP addresses for the Internet. As long as devices still connect to form a network, the internet will always exist.

Please see some of our other interesting articles “How Will The Internet of Things Affect You? IoT” and “How to Lower Your Home WiFi Data Usage.”

Where Is Data Stored?

Where Is Data Stored?
Where Is Data Stored?

Computers that are called data servers store data from the internet. Like any other computer, a data server stores and processes information, but it lacks regular computer additions, like a mouse, keyboard, or monitor. It’s solely for data storage and processing. 

A connection between an internet server and the Web is a vital step before accessing data and enables you to access information on the server.

What Are Data Centers?

A data center refers to a collection of data servers that are in an exact location. Data centers continue to expand, and by 2021 experts estimate that there will be  7.2 million global data centers globally, and that number will keep growing as more data is added. 

So we’re not in any danger of running out of space anytime in the future, but we may face challenges as users produce more data. 

Still, the expansion of data centers and the introduction of cutting-edge technology will allow data storage in even smaller spaces to prevent a global internet shutdown. New technologies may lead to less reliance on data centers and cloud storage.

Technological Advancements Made in Data Storage

The increasing amounts of data produced by users every day mean that we need to find better and more efficient methods to store data that won’t use up too much physical space or need costly data transfers to newer storage devices. 

We could reduce the creation of data to release the pressure on storage locations. Still, that idea isn’t feasible as almost everything we do, from business to socializing, depends on the internet and is, therefore, connected to data storage.

Producing less data or halting data production would have grave consequences on a considerable amount of the world’s population. So the solution is to create better technologies that let us store more significant amounts of data to keep up with data creation speeds. 

New Data Storage Technologies

New Data Storage Technologies
Seagate HAMR Hard Drive Laser Light heating recording material to 450 degrees centigrade.

Some of these new Data Storage technologies are already on the market, while experts are still perfecting the rest, which will be available for use soon. 

Even as scientists work hard to perfect new technologies, flash drives and hard drives will be used for the foreseeable future. Hybrids of flash drives and hard drives will become more common to create more storage space, improving durability and longevity.

Let’s look at some new advancements that can store data and keep the internet safe from extinction.

Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording

This technology employs lasers to heat minute areas of a computer’s internal disk platter to a searing heat of about 400°C (752°F) before writing, which causes a shift in magnetism. That shift lingers long enough to allow data writing in a smaller section than regular internal disk drives. HAMR makes it possible to store more data per square inch of a disk.

Seagate, which produces these HAMR hard drives, has stated that the disk drives will have upwards of 40 terabytes of storage by 2023.

DNA Data Storage 

DNA Data Storage

DNA can store large amounts of information, so harnessing it in data storage would make history. One gram of DNA can keep a mind-boggling 215 million gigabytes of data. 

But this technology is too costly and is still a few steps away from being ready for release in the market. Synthesizing one megabyte of data will cost about $3,500, but it may solve the looming storage problem as time progresses and the chemical synthesis costs experience a reduction. 

The genetic material is considerably denser than the most compact hard drive, and it’s more durable, making it suitable for a more extended period which can stretch to thousands of years with the right storage conditions.

Helium Disk Drives

Helium has less density than air, so using it in drives will use less power. Air-filled disk drives require more energy to spin discs, and using helium reduces this energy by about 20%. 

Helium-filled hard drives also run cooler and produce less heat with less friction, preventing damage caused by overheating, resulting in data loss. 

These disk drives have a larger storage capacity than traditional air-filled disk drives. They are already available on the market, and you can get the Seagate IronWolf 8TB Helium disk drive on Amazon for better and improved storage space.

Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) 

Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR)
SMR – Toshiba’s DT02 series of 3.5-inch HDD

The name Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) comes from how the data is stacked, resembling shingles on a roof to maximize and increase storage space. 

Trimming the stored data releases more space for storage without altering the already existing data. This kind of data storage has a very notable advantage: it doesn’t need new equipment to operate. 

SMR technology is compatible with the traditional hard drive, which means the overall cost is affordable, making it accessible to the average person. 

5D Data Storage 

5D technology can make use of fused quartz or glass. Each disk can store upwards of 360 terabytes of data, which is an impressive amount compared to our traditional storage disks. They are also relatively smaller than the conventional disks, with a width of only three inches. 

Experts use glass to construct these disks. They are very durable and can withstand extreme temperatures, dust exposure, or humidity without losing any data, unlike the traditional disk drives, which are susceptible to damage over time. 

Glass disks are assumed capable of storing data for more than 10 billion years in ideal conditions. Using 5D data storage enables us to read data in five dimensions instead of the usual two or three.

Quantum Data Storage 

This form of Quantum Data Storage is still in its infancy. A quantum computer would be faster and store notably large amounts of data. A bit on a computer can occur as either 1 or 0, but in a quantum computer, a quantum bit can exist in all its possible states simultaneously. 

Simultaneous existence enables the storage of large amounts of data. However, this method of storing data is unstable and can disintegrate in just a few seconds. This technology isn’t available for use because it still needs vast improvements to make it suitable for release into the market.

Global Data Storage Energy Use

The hidden cost of the Internet is energy usage. In 2019 energy demand growth from data centers and data transmission networks accounted for around 1% of global electricity use. In reality, that is a huge chunk of power.

The projected infiltration and permeation of IoT and AI-run digital infrastructure will greatly affect and increase Data Center energy requirements. The article “Usage impact on data center electricity needs: A system dynamic forecasting model” by Martijn Koot and FonsWijnhoven suggest substantial possible increasing energy usage. 

“We expect a combined growth of data center electricity needs of 286 TWh in 2016 up to 321 TWh in 2030, if today’s technological and behavioral trends remain the same. The end of Moore’s law results in a total of 658 TWh for 2030, and an increase of the global data centers’share electricity consumption from 1.15% in 2016 to 1.86% in 2030. The rise of Industrial IoT applications may consume a total of 364 TWh (about 1.03%) in 2030. Moore’s law and IoT combined cause data center energy needs going up to 752 TWh in 2030, and about 2.13% of global electricity available.”

A system dynamic forecasting model” by Martijn Koot and FonsWijnhoven

Final Word

The internet is limitless, and though some have been predicting an internet failure for years, it’s improbable. It would take years to exhaust the storage space we have at present, and even then, the internet will keep expanding to accommodate the increasing need for storage space. 

Experts are developing cutting-edge technologies to meet the demand for storage space, stretching from HAMR to DNA Data Storage. The improved technologies will reduce the energy used in data storage and cut back on costs and physical space, so a “storage armageddon” is unlikely.

References:

John Mortensen

I am a project manager, tech writer, and science enthusiast who loves to study the latest technology, such as AI, comedy, quantum computers, smartphones, headphones, and software.

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