Where is all the information data on the Internet stored?

The Answer:

The Internet is a vast maze. It is incredibly hard to quantify and sometimes almost impossible to truly navigate. A complex array of machinery, coding, and processing power is needed to run even a single computer, much less the behemoth that is the Internet.

Information on the Internet is exchanged through packets of data sent by computers to each other. A file or request for information is divided up into these packets to make the load manageable for the computer to process and the Internet connection it travels over. Each packet can carry up to 1500 bytes of information. Each byte is comprised of eight bits of data. Each bit can either be a zero or a one. The byte system allows what humans read as words or numbers, as well as logical processes within computer applications, to be transferred from one place to another in binary. Binary is a language entirely comprised of ones and zeros. One represents true and zero represents false. A computer at its base level reads these ones and zeros and can execute any function it is told to do. Essentially, binary acts as a set of instructions for the computer to follow.

While all of this does not sound complicated, things become complex when a computer must account for billions of bytes. Does this sound unrealistic? The average file size today is around 3 Megabytes, which converts to three million bytes of data. Thankfully, with modern technology, a file transfer of this size can be done in mere seconds. But when accounting for billions and billions of files, the question arises: where does all this information get stored?

After all, all these files and applications cannot possibly be used simultaneously. So where are they kept when not in use? Surely there is not some central hub where all things on the Internet are stored. This assumption is correct. One thing to remember is that the Internet is not a singular thing. It is a complex web of interconnected machines spanning the globe.

Because of this, data is stored in the hard drives of numerous web servers all over the world. A web server is a computer like any other. In fact, any computer can be converted to a server, hosting and storing data after the conversion. But the average server is purely dedicated to its task. It often has significantly more processing power and storage than the average computer to accomplish its task in an efficient manner.

Servers are often organized into vast networking hubs, buildings filled with numerous racks of computers. These racks are often connected to each other as well as the Internet, so they can exchange, process, and store more data. These databases store an obscene amount of data, thousands of encyclopedias worth, easily. To summarize, information present on the Internet is stored where the server for that particular website’s or application’s server is located.

How does it work?

In order to access data not stored on a personal computer, web browsers are needed. If you want to stream a YouTube video, you type in YouTube’s web address. This address is process by your computer and sent, through a rather complex process, out through an Internet router into the “Internet”. Essentially, after the request leaves the your router, it bounces from router to router on a path to YouTube’s server. It knows where to go based a process that links the web address name to its server IP address and MAC address (its Internet and physical location).  Once it reaches YouTube’s server, the request to access its website is processed and accepted, with the data necessary to display the page accessed by your computer. If you want to search for a video, this process is repeated. In fact, this process is used for pretty much everything used and accessed on the Internet.

Internet in culture:

It goes without saying that the Internet is an integral, ubiquitous part of society. Sometimes, it is hard to access. This can be due to a poor internet connection, which is often the case. But just as commonplace an issue is the computer used. If the computer’s processing power is not high enough to meet the demands of the user, a slow, tedious, frustrating experience will ensue. To combat this, new, high powered computers are designed all the time.