How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?

How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?

So, the internet. It’s a pretty big deal. The human race generates a lot of data — and
these days, we’re all about storing it in the cloud. And even though we talk about the cloud as
though it’s this weird space of non-being, all of that data that we send to it are actually
sitting on very real, physical hard drives somewhere. And managing it takes a lot of
energy. That’s where data centers come in. Data centers are huge, warehouse-like buildings
that are filled with servers — computers that are designed to store data so that they
can be retrieved as quickly as possible. These servers hold the world’s information,
from 2005’s stock market trends to those adorable pictures of your kids at the park
last week. Each individual request, like pulling up SciShow’s
YouTube channel, might not be demanding. But add all of them together, and the internet
uses a significant amount of the world’s electricity. In 1992, data transfers worldwide added up
to a modest one hundred gigabytes per day. By 2013, that rate had gone up to more than
28,000 gigabytes per second. Since then, that number has continued to increase. And any time you try to access any of the
data stored in the cloud, it has to be pulled up from a server, which uses energy. The estimate changes depending on how you
calculate it, but according to one study, in 2011, the internet used around 2 percent
of the world’s energy. That was 2011, so that percentage has increased since then,
as more people connect and are using more devices. Data centers seem to be the best way to manage
the problem. By sharing resources, companies save more energy than they would if they tried
to have their own small set of servers — by as much as 87 percent, according to some estimates. But as valuable as they are, data centers
come with their own set of challenges when it comes to energy efficiency. The servers in data centers are always running,
because even when they aren’t active, they need to be ready to retrieve data at any moment. And for a data center, uptime is key. That’s
why many servers are only running at 10 to 15 percent capacity. Some even end up as zombie
servers, transferring no data at all, just waiting to be called into action. But whether they’re actually being used
or not, all those servers generate a lot of heat, and as anyone with an air conditioned
home will tell you, keeping things cool is one surefire way to inflate the electric bill. According to a report by the Natural Resources
Defense Council, data centers in the United States alone used up 91 billion kilowatt-hours
of electricity in 2013. It would take 34 relatively large coal-fired powered plants to generate
that much energy. By 2020, the report predicts that data centers
will consume 140 billion kilowatt-hours a year — that’s 51 coal plants. So if we want to make the internet more energy-efficient,
data centers are a good place to begin — starting with finding new ways to keep servers cool
while using less energy. One way to do that is by having hot and cold
aisles. Every server has an air intake, where it sucks
it in, and an exhaust, where it blows it out. Along the way, the air is meant to cool the
server by absorbing some heat, making the air from the exhaust about five degrees warmer
than the intake. But if you have the servers neatly arranged
in a rack so that they’re all facing the same way, you’re going to have problems.
Hot exhaust from one server is going to blow toward another’s air intake, and it’s
going to take much more A/C to make up for that extra hot air. If you flip around every other rack of servers
so that intakes and rack exhausts face each other, you end up alternating cooler intake
aisles and warmer exhaust aisles. With this arrangement, fans use up to 25 percent
less electricity to keep servers cool. You can also cut the amount of electricity
that air conditioning uses by actually raising the temperature. Servers run just fine using air that’s between
18 and 27 degrees, but many data centers are kept at 13 degrees, or even colder. Every half a degree increase in temperature
can add up to a five percent decrease in energy costs. So while a 27-degree room might be a little
toasty for some people, there’s no reason we can’t just raise the temperature in the
room and save a lot of energy. Another, more dramatic way to make data centers
more efficient uses something called server virtualization. Virtualization lets you take multiple servers
and stick them onto one machine. There’s only one physical server involved, but it
can store and retrieve data as if it is many. Before, you might have had 10 servers, each
running at 5 percent capacity. But virtualize them so they all run on one machine, and you’ve
just saved as much energy as it takes to cool nine servers — and you’re still only running
at 50 percent. Depending on the setup and demand, virtualization
can save 10 to 40 percent of energy costs. And every year, more data centers are adopting
these kinds of strategies. The internet is not going anywhere — at least,
I hope not! — but maybe it doesn’t have to consume quite so much of our resources. Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow,
and thank you to Emerson for sponsoring it. If you want to keep getting smarter with us,
you can go to and subscribe.


  1. DmitriSochlioukov says:

    SciShow bob

  2. Jules S says:

    Interesting fact. I visited a sheet metals manufacturing shop that was making specialized vents designed to keep servers cool much more efficiently. Apparently they work very well.

  3. Will Dubray says: I am raising funds for my pet dog's surgery.  YOU CAN HELP by clicking the link and making a small donation today.

  4. Gohan6 says:

    great video! great sources! =D

  5. Prasad Indi says:

    Thanks a lot… I never gave it a thought before!

  6. Patrick Scholl says:

    With the heat differential between the intake and exhaust aisle, couldn't you generate a small amount of electricity? it's gonna be a small benefit, but it could be some increase in efficiency.

  7. Liam Hernandez says:

    Anyone see that clown at 3:54 ?

  8. TheRealGaffer says:

    All I can think about is a young G-Man…

  9. Umar Farooque says:

    Why not put data centres in cold places and save on ac ?

  10. MrDeaz says:

    This video did not answer the question in the title. qlickbait shit

  11. Pentahydrate says:

    You didn't answer the question in the title, the people have spoken and he wants a number!

  12. S WALKER says:

    In terms of very large data centres I wonder if it would be possible to somehow harvest the heat produced and actually use that to produce more electricity? That said, how you would do that whilst simultaneously producing a cooling affect could be the stumbling block for that one.

  13. Austin Hammock says:

    Oh cool, my dad works at Emerson.

  14. aRvInD Gr says:

    Awesome info…

  15. Thomas Weitgraven says:

    a dutch company had a great idea involving server and heating homes

  16. wispina says:

    My father used to work for Emerson, then he moved to a different job in a different state… This video was really interesting, as I basically am growing up (I'm still not an adult) around data centres and going in with my dad after hours when something goes wrong!

  17. Matthew Smith says:

    Can't you just store the data in cold climates, Greenland,Alaska etc?

  18. Dimmak Long says:

    Not sure if anyone brought this up but one of the biggest energy losses through out a Data Centre is power rectification. Convert all that the phase 440V mains in to 48V DC to power all the systems loses HUGE amounts of power. rough 96% of power is lost this way and if the rectifiers are not running at over 30%-70% you can expect as much as 60-70% loss. all into heat that you then have to try and remove from the rooms using more power. Then there is all the battery backup UPS & PSU's sat there waiting in case one day that three phase supply drops for 5mins…. it is endless the internet is HUNGRY!!

  19. Noorquacker says:

    I really hope they're using SSDs now;speed, efficiency, and size is significant.

  20. Harrison Young says:

    Not gonna mention mineral oil cooloing?

  21. Dan F says:

    Could the heat from these servers be captured and used to in turn create energy to run the servers, something like what a turbo charger can do for an engine?

  22. Don Buskirk says:

    light can transfer data  so cant we just run all fiber optic into a one way loop that never ends then all info is available by the speed of light?

  23. meddle says:

    can't stand the jump cuts. unsubscribed yet again — remembering why i did in the first place…

  24. z1mt0n1x says:

    Or the data centres could just get off the powergrid by generating their own electricity.
    For example, the Pearl River Tower in China.

  25. tai nguyen says:

    why dont we us solar light and make energy to cool down the computers?

  26. Brandon Inigo says:

    This is so stupid And mhrhuebdjdjrhjddhjddhhd dB VDU crrrher

  27. solak vaslovic says:

    1:01 {does some arithmetic} Wow, that's 24.5 doublings in 21 years.
    Thanks, Moore's Law!

  28. ShadowWolf says:

    Build data centers underground where the temperature stays a constant 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

  29. wolfgang loll says:

    or just build the Serverfarm in a Cool place, … literally

  30. Kaiser1914 says:

    Why not make data centers in Siberia, Greenland, Iceland, Alaska etc?

  31. Alex Cotman says:

    Hearing virtualization made me think of Code Lyoko.

  32. cheerdiver says:

    Looks like an optimum situation to use a Sterling motor "engine".  Motors get energy from an outside source, an engine creates it's own energy.

  33. Ethan Castillo says:

    Use a ton of solar panels so u can get perfect energy

  34. ’e-ḇen says:

    Just build the racks submerged under water, and underground. No AC needed

  35. TheCh0senOne1 says:

    What does it mean that servers run at 10%-15% capacity?

  36. Julien Guizetti says:

    I think the technical university Zurich uses water-cooled servers for their Bioinformatics institut. The water is then used to heat the building (at least in the colder seasons) … as easy as that.

  37. 3131joe says:

    if you want keep cool move the data centers to Eureka ca its cool hear most the year

  38. Nikhildeep singh says:

    how the email gets transferred internationally in seconds?

  39. Molly McEnerney says:

    I wonder if there is some way that the heat from the exhaust could also be harnessed for some other use, to maximize efficiency.

  40. DocEigen says:

    This video left out the largest consumption of energy…
    the energy used to move hands as they masturbate
     genitals, in front of porn.  That's also where most of
    the money online comes from.

  41. Fetch Quest says:

    Move entire facility to alaska. Open window. Bam problem solved

  42. Kaleb Bruwer says:

    did you say 27 degrees will be a little toasty for some people? HAHAHAHAHA! oh, you were serious. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! but seriously though… you have NO idea what heat is!

  43. onemadhungrynomad says:

    why arn't they using the server's heat to produce energy?

  44. braydell ritter says:

    short answer : A HELL A LOT OF ENERGY

  45. Bacon CheeseCake says:

    not as much as transporting your MOTHER!! OHHHHHHHH

  46. Craig Stephenson says:

    Content: Good. Presenter: Annoying.

  47. Andree Vanguilder says:

    Go to inplix page if you want to learn how to build it yourself

  48. Matej Gagyi says:

    Inefficiency of the Zombie server's is fault of sloppy technical staff and ignorant management. Better don't get a job, if you are not going to do it right. 😉

  49. KC19 says:

    Nah… I'll keep my 4 phones….

  50. Francis Lai says:

    I think hank is missing the point here. Those servers are running at 5% for a reason. You think some google exec wouldn't have noticed it by now?

  51. dondude69 says:

    That's a lot of cat videos and porn!

  52. Wessel Driessen says:

    This is a really cool solution to the problem though:

  53. Jon Campbell says:

    more computer science and robotics vids!

  54. rbtx99 says:

    2:50 Every server room I have seen had suspended floor. The cold air pressurised under the floor, flows up through the server racks and exits into the room from the top of the rack. Then it gets extracted from vents close to ceiling level.

  55. Max Poma says:

    Do these numbers include the deep web?

  56. Jay Desai says:

    They should build servers in antartica

  57. hermansen says:

    Could they not just have servers in cold places?

  58. BLAZING GAMERS says:

    the 500000000 TB par second in next 3 years welcome to the next level of the internet!!

  59. dolebiscuit says:

    Use the waste heat from servers to generate electricity that in turn powers the units that cool the servers.

    The same principles of a turbocharger, but for data centers.

    Think about it.

  60. Nikolay Lubko says:

    you cant just virtualize 100 servers into one computer such a dumb idea, how about HDDS?, how about power supplies for the hdds? how about when all the data starts getting accessed? the server will run 100% and what will you do then?. there is a reason people dont or do use vurtulization.

  61. Minäenkeksinimeä says:

    Why cool the air down whit ac unit? Why dont they use like sea water for that or lake or even river.

  62. Acertive Pillow says:

    I don't understand how INCREASING room temperature reduces the energy bill. Can someone explain what i'm missing ?

  63. Quenton Wong says:

    why do servers run at such a low maximum capacity

  64. roadhuntingfreak says:

    Everything has gotten significantly more efficient than it used to be, with virtualization technologies yes, now container based tech can take it further. Also, x86 CPU design (as far as intel goes) has gotten even more efficient, lets not forget about SSDs and Flash based storage… 😉

  65. Letter_N says:

    All SciShow subscriber

  66. John Paul says:

    Houses need heat, servers need cold, just stick servers in everyone's house and in the summer time use solar power and geothermal to cool the server.  You're welcome world.  On a side note I volunteer to house navient's server I will take good care of it I promise >)

  67. Toasty Donut says:

    Emerson is my old school but they tore it down

  68. EyesOfByes says:

    Was the Facebook datacenter in Luleå, Sweden built when this video was made?

  69. LarsaXL says:

    You know what is cheaper than air-conditioning? Opening a window. Why don't they just build the majority of data centers here in the north.

  70. Real world says:

    Use less internet save earth

  71. berlineczka says:

    There is also a way to contribute as an individual user to limiting the usage of resources by the Internet: clean up your cloud spaces. All the thousands of old emails, pictures you do not need on Google Drive, old documents on Doogle docs, etc. take up space and energy on the servers. If you delete old data you will prevent or at least delay the need of the servers to expand, as they need to serve the always raising number of data to be stored, and save the energy needed to produce the new computer, and to run them.
    Sure, it's a teeny tiny bit, but if enough people routinely do it, it can make an impact.

  72. Greedy Baron says:

    What if i had a 50kb dial up connection? how long would it take to buffer THIS video in 1080p ? how shredded shall my modem become? or my computers weak PSU? how bout my copper cable? or is my monthly bill shredded instead alongside with my life-time? how bou dah?

  73. Ap Gp says:

    Can you stop using filthy communist units, and start using Freedom Units again?

  74. Seth White says:

    Stirling engines. Turn that heat INTO power (some of it at least)

  75. John Doe says:

    Video title :"How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?" after the video I still don't know it. Is it a Watt, or 10.000 MegaWatts? HOW MUCH does the internet use? :> thumbs down :(((

  76. Adam Bartlett says:

    To the best of my knowledge, the radical Canadian reform party is the only party that has a solution to the internet that will enable (among other things) a carbon/energy neutral free (in the sense of accessible for all) internet.

    In addition to many other tricks, the servers will be stored underground & the waste heat will be used to produce energy. There's no need to have as vulnerable & destructive a system just to have the internet.

    Of course, the RCR party is not only focused on the internet, they have a comprehensive plan to address all the issues systematically to the best of our abilities.


  77. J D says:

    "In 1992, data transfers worldwide added up to a modest 100GB per day"
    That estimate sounds too low to me. I would think that in 1992 the rate would be much higher.

  78. Hoàng Trần Minh says:

    you forgot to account for all the seeders leaving their machines on overnight to seed… and the all miners that buy like a hundred of all the new gpus on the market, with each gpu consuming anywhere from 200 to 500w, running them 24/7.

  79. Bobby Harper says:

    Free cooling where I live tonight.

  80. Darth Sarcom says:

    Cover antactica in servers

  81. J J says:

    Where are data centres located? All that generated heat could have use being sold to public buildings. Public building gets heat, the data centre gets cooled air/liquid (however you transfer it) in return. Both save on cooling/heating.

  82. John Man says:

    So how much energy is consumed for my 20,000 photos in Google Photos?

  83. Brendan Scott says:

    Hank : "the internet is not going anywhere"
    Ajit pai : "hey bro watch this"

  84. Rameez Ali says:

    One easy solution, move data centers to cooler location such as iceland and use natural resources to cool down servers and transport heat to residence using interconnected pipe tunneling who are relying on heaters. Energy saving strategy.

  85. Radiation Pony says:

    and we can stick Sterling engions on the building exhausts to recuperate some energy

  86. Not Applicable says:

    Solution: put the heat from the server into a geothermal power system that creates a portion of the power consumed by the server.

  87. Carson Bode says:

    Please stop giving ajit pai ideas

  88. Redo SEm says:

    Today I was wearing the same shirt as you. I did bough it from Express

  89. Kalahatze says:

    While servers may be able to run fine at 27°C, the cooler a server is the longer the parts last. Heat the main killer of computer parts, so even if they can run at a bit hotter, they wont last as long as if they were kept cooler. That being said, it's possible that the energy cost to keep the place cool will end up adding more to the bill than replacing parts might. You'd need to do the calculations and tests to find out exactly what temperature is the most optimal money wise, and I'd imagine the data houses have already done that and 13°C is optimal, which is why most of them are kept that temperature. Or maybe they haven't, idk lol.

  90. Real Communism says:


  91. Aupps gaming says:

    They should use solar panels instead of coal plants

  92. Peter M. Eggers says:

    The Internet connects data centers, personal computers and devices, and all sorts of other digital devices in the public, government, and personal spaces. The Internet is the connecting wire and optical fiber, plus some networking switches to keep the data flowing. It is woefully inaccurate to include all of the digital devices that the Internet connects in with the actual Internet which would be a small fraction of what you quoted.

  93. Jurgen Kranenburg says:

    why don't we put servers and tuff in cold space. and connect them to earth via some lightspeed stuff. the energie required to cool the servers in space is much less. or isn,t this possible ??

  94. Joseph Laub says:

    Okay, now factor in the energy consumption of the internet's users.

  95. Russell smejkal says:

    The Internet is causing global warming

  96. Jon Jr says:

    We do generate a lot of data!!!!! Just imagine the countless emails, and going to court where they record everything that is said, including a surveillance, its a hell lot of data!

  97. Sebastian Lewandowski says:

    Shaggy is using 0,3% of his Energy to sustain the whole internet.

  98. denzoned says:

    Its not only the data centers that uses energy. Every node until your data reaches the data center or whatever you want to acces uses energy. According to one study it costs about 0,51$/GB of data transfer which is a lot. Think about it. This is a really unnoticed problem that will rise in the future.

  99. Brian Huffman says:

    You know Hank Green sounds a lot like I don't know Bill Nye reincarnated

  100. kruset11 says:

    Can we get an update?

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