Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all competing for the right to provide cloud storage for the vast amounts of data being generated across the world. This unseen area, which zaps up and protects our information, is a simple answer to the device storage limit. Although this pool is referred to as the cloud, it is actually a collection of servers located in a big cold room. So, is this space limitless, or will it eventually run out?
To address this, we must first consider who uses the cloud:
To be omnipresent in the virtual world, Spotify, Netflix, Pinterest, McDonald's, and Uber, to mention a few, all rely on cloud services.
The utilization of cloud services may be classified into three groups.
First, there's software as a service, which comprises a variety of web-based apps that we all use, such as Google Drive, Netflix, Gmail, DropBox, Spotify, and others.
Then there's platform as a service, like Google App Engine, which provides virtual machines for developing and deploying code, and infrastructure as a service, like Amazon EC2, which is used by a variety of small, medium, and large businesses (including Instagram before the Facebook acquisition) to host applications in a virtualized environment, allowing them to increase their computing power, storage, and hardware limitations.
Taking these three groups into consideration, about 3.6 billion people are currently using the cloud in some capacity.
Then there's the question of how much data there is.
This is difficult to analyze, however take the following instances from our daily lives. Every minute, over 15.2 million phone messages are transmitted, Instagram users upload nearly 46000 images, Facebook users like over 4 million posts every minute, and the cloud also handles with 1 million spam emails.
It's difficult to account for all the data, but it's estimated that by 2022, we'll be creating 70 zettabytes of data every year, or about 60 billion terabytes, thanks to apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, to name a few.
However, not everything on the cloud is actually helpful, is it? However, data is a top concern, and it appears that businesses have promised to not allow any of the data created go to waste.
So where is this data actually stored?
Everything is backed up and stacked on servers that are effectively mapped to hard drives in established data centers strategically located across the world. These data centers are massive racks with tens of thousands of computers connected to networks in clusters. A client computer in a faraway location can connect to these servers via the network, which serves as the cloud platform's backbone.
So now back to the question of “Unlimited Storage”
Unlimited storage does not exist in the physical world, at least not in theory. With limited fiber optic connections, bandwidth, semiconductors to make chips, and personnel, there is a restricted capacity to build servers. This limit is obviously quite high, yet it cannot be described as limitless.
However, the world's largest data center can hold roughly 1 billion terabytes of data, and there are hundreds of them across the world. So it's apparent that we're doing very well. Although this limit may theoretically be surpassed, we have competent and intelligent personnel manning the data centers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure that such a situation does not occur.
If our existing storage capacity is exceeded, cloud companies will most likely expand their data centers or add more servers to accommodate more selfies and memes. This is clearly contingent on the availability of power and vast swaths of undeveloped land.
So, for the time being, we don't need to be concerned about having our heads in the clouds. Even if the cloud fails us in the future, quantum and DNA computing are being explored as alternatives. In the meanwhile, we can all simply Netflix and Chill.