The Inquiry podcast

Will we ever run out of cloud storage?

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Recent cloud storage outages have exposed just how the modern world is reliant on remote servers to hold data that runs everything from websites, to digital operating systems and businesses. When cloud storage emerged, it meant that information could be streamed, rather than held in a device’s memory. Vast data centres were built where land was cheap and their owners soon realised that they could sell excess memory space on their servers. They became so-called “hyperscalers” providing cloud services. They include Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft, and the business is worth $500 billion a year. But there are concerns that too much information is already in the cloud. Critical data – such as aircraft control and military systems is being uploaded to publicly accessible servers. If there’s a glitch, the consequences could be catastrophic. Remote cloud systems therefore need to run 24 hours a day without fail, but the power the industry uses causes around 2 to 3% of all global carbon emissions. It’s set to get even bigger, but at what cost to the environment? This week on the Inquiry, we’re asking: will we ever run out of cloud storage? Contributors: Ola Chowning, Partner with ISG Information Services Group Laurel Ruma. Global Editorial Director for the MIT Technology Review Professor Bill Buchanan, Edinburgh Napier University. Dr Emma Fitzgerald, Lund University Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Phil Revell Editor: Tara McDermott Researcher: John Cossee Studio Engineer: Richard Hannaford Broadcast Coordinator: Brenda Brown (Woman at home with an ipad looking at the large cloud above her head. Credit: Anthony Harvie/Getty Images)

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