The Real Cost of Clouds

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How much electrical energy does the internet use and how does that cost in terms of both money and ecological pollution? Ever think about that?

From a NYTimes article about the cloud, broadband caps and net neutrality comes this comment:

150. Tony Marshallsay
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Forget all the worrying about bandwidth, download caps and costs which get hiked once you've been well and truly hooked on the "advantages" of "the cloud". Before you gripe about how you are being affected, just think what the cloud is doing to this Earth of ours.

It is more than a year since some researchers showed that running the Internet burns more fossil fuel than all the airline flights in the world. Now, just think how much traffic over the Internet has boomed in just that short year, due to the increases in broadband download speed which have made downloading of movies, Netflix, video streaming and lots of other high capacity services feasible.

If I were to download a movie from a site in USA, the process would be burning fuel across half the world to power all the intermediate relay/switch points.

One of the first things to move to the cloud was Microsoft's Help for its Office suite "so that the information you get will always be up to the minute" (other major software providers have followed suit). Before, finding what you wanted to know within its arcane indexing system took forever - but it only burned fuel for the power to run your PC - power you were already using anyway. Now, it takes longer than ever to find anything, because basing queries on search throws up a load of possible results for you to laboriously trawl through, rather than clicking through hierarchical menus and following links. How much more fuel does that burn... worldwide?

Would you like to reduce your contribution to the Internet's anthropogenic global warming by 80% instantly? Sure, you would - but you wouldn't like it when you find out how it could be done: banning CSS. It's CSS that gives you "pretty" web pages, rather than those created with plain old HTML; but the formatting code of CSS increases the size of the web page code by the leaps and bounds of a kangaroo, and all that extra code has to be carried, burning fuel worldwide, and processed at your PC, burning more locally! Java and Javascript have a lot to answer for, too, because all those dinky animated banners, "mouse over" adverts and the like are also burning fuel the same way.

So, next time you complain about caps and charges on the cloud affecting your on-line life, or your ability to watch YouTube video clips without fits and starts, perhaps you might think how that life today could be affecting life for all the inhabitants of this planet tomorrow. The cloud is very convenient - but that convenience comes with a price which doesn't show up in your monthly bill, and which the service providers would prefer you didn't think about, because then you might not buy so much from them.

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This page contains a single entry by cul published on June 19, 2011 9:14 AM.

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