Where on Earth is your data?
17 December 2009
As most of us know, the Internet isn't based in a single country, it's global. Major web companies such as Yahoo and Google have servers based around the globe. In order to maintain their services and to provide a fair amount of reliability, they store information across multiple servers.
Any online information, once publicized to any degree is out of the control of its owner- contact information can be managed by any number of sites, for example. With regards to physical location, many users of online services don't have a perception of what happens to the information they upload. The Cloud seems magical to end users but there are real, physical locations and hardware that keep it running.
Most services keep information stored geographically as close to users as possible- Google's GMail went down a while back due to an issue with that and Yahoo once offered to move my data to Australia (Opera Mobile uses a proxy service most likely based there). I personally store a massive amount of information online- Skydrive and Mesh have my photos and writing, Google has my email, documents, and contact information, Facebook has photos and personal information, and Chi.mp stores all of my contact information.
Skydrive backs up information to other servers, so copies of my photos could be residing somewhere overseas- I could be visiting Europe and not even know it. As for Chi.mp, their service is based in the Northern Mariana Islands- but they run off of Amazon's cloud service wherever that may be.
From a global perspective, it is really very difficult to determine where the information you store online truly flies off to.
The question becomes, however, is if it's really significant to know physically where your online information is stored- as long as its owners can access and edit it as needed. The days of keeping track of where all your information is are over; it's the cyber age so it can be anywhere. Want proof? Search for yourself on http://whitepages.com.
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