The cloud out of space? Scientists scrambling to prevent global data storage crisis

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — Servers around the world could soon face a massive data storage crunch, thanks to the “mind-blowing amount” of information people store digitally every day.

Researchers from Aston University say the global datasphere — the total amount of data worldwide — will increase by 300 percent within the next three years. Currently, all of this data sits in banks of servers stored in huge warehouses (data centers).

Unfortunately, the answer to creating more space in “the cloud” is not just to build more server warehouses. The Aston team says data centers already use up 1.5 percent of the world’s electricity every year. That makes endlessly building new facilities just for massive servers an unsustainable practice.

Servers smaller than your hair!

With that in mind, scientists are now working on creating new data storage surfaces which are just five nanometers in width. That’s about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair! At the same time, they’ll be able to increase data storage capacity on digital devices — since there will likely be no stopping the amount of information people store digitally every second of every day.

“Simply building new data centers without improving data storage technologies is not a viable solution,” says Dr. Matt Derry, a lecturer in chemistry within the Aston’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, in a university release.

“Increasingly we face the risk of a so-called data storage crunch and improved data storage solutions are imperative to keep up with the demands of the modern world.”

“We will be exploiting advanced polymer chemistry as a pathway to increase the amount of data that can be housed on storage media,” adds Dr. Amit Kumar Sarkar, a researcher in materials chemistry.

Worker doing maintenance at data storage warehouse.
Researchers warn that the solution for creating more space in “the cloud” is not just to build more server warehouses.(Credit: Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images)

“Increasing the efficiency of existing technologies will significantly reduce the need for costly, environmentally damaging construction of new ‘mega data centers.’ The next three years will be crucial. The global datasphere is predicted to increase to 175 zettabytes, with one zettabyte being approximately equal to one billion terabytes,” Sarkar concludes.

The project to relieve the world’s impending data crisis is part of the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) 2022-2027 strategy, and the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

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  1. Solution: stop storing so much unnecessary data. How much of the cloud is chocked up with our personal data, years of website search data, etc., all gathered by third parties and governments.

  2. Imagine how silly our ancestors would think we were if they heard us say we were running out of space to store information.

    1. We could delete all the junk and postpone the problem for a few years at best. Wouldn’t solve the problem!
      It’s about 21Tb of storage for every person in the world! That’s literally nothing!
      YouTube is estimated at about 2500Pb!
      We need more data centers!
      We need better and more efficient hardware!
      We need better data compression!
      And we need it fast or the world will considerably slow down on its path of development and evolution!

  3. I hope this new storage technology becomes available for private NAS users like me who use the cloud as the 3 in a 1-2-3 backup strategy rather than their main storage.

  4. Oh come on, you can make more hard drives, tape drives, etc. Yes it’s an insane amount of data, but I bet a lot of it is junk anyway, decades of myspace and yahoo chat records.

  5. If only there was a way to store information that didn’t require electricity…. nah that’s crazy talk. The cloud is green, right? This world is getting dumber.

  6. My mind turns to how much of that data is just multiple copies of the same thing. It seems like some sort of anonymous de-duping technology, where you can just store a pointer to a block of data instead of storing the data itself could be a viable solution. But it would be critical to address privacy concerns with such a system. Maybe a good use-case for block chain.

  7. B.S. MIT years ago came up with using DNA to store data and insane amount! That tech is being used by MS at Cargill using artificial DNA.

    1. correct, but why are videos of girls who were 18 in 2000 still on the porn web sites and not getting paid? They should be able to delete their images.

  8. Most of it is meaningless, useless, outdated, unwanted, unneeded, forgotten, misplaced and otherwise just clutter.

  9. Oh no! You mean we’re in danger of losing all those forgotten 22 gigabyte 2009-2014 PowerPoint presentations? And what about those 720dpi “hi-res” videos of Fluffy the Cat I shot on my BlackBerry. Those are gone too?! Just what are we all going to do?

  10. It’s mostly video from the millions of cameras we literally have on every house, street, parking, buildings, traffic lights, cars, etc. I go through 2 TB every week with only 4 cameras on my home security system and that’s only when they are triggered by motion. A TB isn’t much storage when it comes to video. Social media is probably the culprit as well.

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