Making additional copies of files, keeping useless e-mails because the inbox limit is infinite anyway, sharing photos with friends online, we all do it. “What people do not realise is that storing this data requires energy,” says Chiung Chang, who works at ICIS.
We are talking about data stored both on your computer and on a server. “Your computer gets slower if the hard disk is full and therefore needs more time to complete a task. Businesses such as Google and Hotmail store their users’ data on so-called server farms; enormous buildings with servers that work 24/7. This represents 1.5 per cent of the total worldwide energy use.”
Within the framework of Sustainability Day – next Friday (11-11-11) – Chang and her colleague Véronique Vasseur ask university employees to clear computer files. Which does not mean that nothing can be saved. “Absolutely not. Storing your documents properly is very important. But I am critical. If a lot of people do the same – also outside the university – it can make a difference. I wouldn't go so far as to think that server farms can be abolished, but maybe we can prevent the building of new farms.”