The Internet: Where’s your data?

It is widely known the Internet is a global resource operating everywhere, in our homes, schools, workplaces and our pockets. In fact, it can be accessed from almost every place on earth – and even locations further out into space. But what about the data being accessed? Where is that stored and who is accessing it.

When looking at this, the results are interesting.

Let’s start by investigating the users. Who they are and where they are. The world’s population is now centric towards the East in locations such as India and China, with the Western world a bit behind. This is confirmed online also with China represented by about 568 million Internet users from a population of 1.3bn, and India represented by 153 million users from a population of 1.2bn. These highly populated ‘developing’ countries have had a massive uptake on Internet usage, but they still have a way to go. On the other side of the coin however, the USA has 255m Internet users from a population of 316 million.

From this it is clear the majority of web use is in the Far East. So what are they all doing? Where is the data that they all consume each and every day?

Well, this is where it gets very interesting.

Brazil (yes Brazil) has the third largest number of Internet hosts, with 26 million. In second place is Japan with 64 million hosts. However, leading the pack by a country mile is our old friends the USA with a whopping 505 million Internet hosts. That’s more hosts, providing services to the internet than the USA has people.

This clearly shows that the USA is still very much at the forefront of web services. I don’t know for sure, but I would estimate that most of these hosts are owned by companies located in Northern California.

So what does all this mean. Well, put simply – I have absolutely no idea – other than:

  • Yes, it’s an interesting fact.
  •  Yes, the USA is still the Daddy. If you make the link between web hosting and innovation, the bulk of the web is still being developed by our friends in San Francisco Bay area.
  • The bulk of consumers are from the Far East and they are consuming services from the USA.

So, does it really matter? Well I think it does in the long-term. Countries, companies and consumers are increasingly nervous about data being stored in other countries. Whether they are worried about other governments ‘having a peak’ or issues relating to the export of data.

People increasingly want their data stored in their own country. Blackberry have suffered problems with this issue in the past when their storage of BBM data caused large scale problems in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and India, with some counties blocking all users from using BBM in protest.

This is an increasingly important consideration for our education customers. As schools look at using web hosted teaching and administration solutions, they are thinking about where their data will actually be stored.

The good news is that providers are getting smart to this, with several providers now ‘guaranteeing’ that their data will be stored in a certain region and not others. Microsoft, for example, are transparent in where Office 365 data is stored and will ensure that is stays in a region that is appropriate to you. For information, UK customers have their data stored in the EU and the backup data centres are based in Holland and Ireland.

A cautionary true tale

I’ve just reconnected a 1TB external hard drive to my laptop and I now feel sick to the stomach.  Every single file, photo, family video and other bits have gone.  Completely.

I used to feel an enormous sense of well-being safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be one of those poor devils for whom dataloss was inevitable.   To save space on my laptop I also stored years of video snippets of my young family on there too plus a huge iTunes library of music.

All was going well until about a month ago.

I hope you have a backup

I started to receive some worrying emails from Western Digital, the back-up drive manufacturer, saying that a recent upgrade to my laptop’s operating system was causing complete and total backup data loss for many users with the same set up.

Was this spam?  The birth of an urban myth?   No.  It was quite real but impressively two emails later WD had sorted some fixes out for the poor folks who’d fallen victim.

Western Digital released a firmware update and shared the link in their email but I had no need for their fix.  I was an elite back-up ninja who had successfully dodged the bullet.  A month passed and it looked like I’d got off scott free, right up until 30 minutes ago when the drive just formatted itself and caused me to write this post.

I reconnected the USB cable and noticed that the backup wasn’t mounting and after much Googling I remembered the WD emails, dug them out and forlornly followed their instructions.

Within the last 3 minutes after a firmware update, a restart and much sweat the empty hard drive has literally just re-populated itself.  From nothing came something and like anyone who has ever had something precious returned to them I don’t know or really care how this worked but I’m just glad I can see my family growing up again.

The moral?

You think it’ll never happen to you but it probably will.  Hard drives break and software will go pear-shaped.  Perhaps I need to sort out a Cloud based back up solution that’s more than just the free version of Dropbox though it is does do a very good job and this last hour I was very glad to have it. Time to go and watch some videos now that I thought I’d lost but if you’d like to share any backup horror stories or successes do feel free!

Second Hand Personal Data

A survey by the ICO discovered that over 10% of second hand computers contained personal information.
Researchers purchased second-hand computers online and were staggered by the number of computers that contained personal information, emails and pre-saved internet passwords. What’s more, some held enough personal data so as to allow identity theft.
PCs store all sorts of stuff these days, in addition to your photos and documents there’s your email (and it’s settings), your browsing history and probably a while bunch of passwords held in cookies or the browser’s keyring.
As such, the advice from everywhere is clear, when you decide to dispose of a computer make sure you delete all your data, and delete it properly. If you’re not exactly sure how to do this, here are a few pointers…
The first, simplest and most enjoyable, method is to physically ensure your data can’t be used. For most PCs this means removing the hard drive and having a few minutes of destructive fun with some screwdrivers and a big hammer. Don’t get carried away though, you only need to remove the hard drive, so the rest can still be sold – albeit at a lower price with your worries in tact. If you want to sell the full computer, or give it away a member of the family or a friend then distraction is not a good option, unless you buy a new drive.
Completely wiping the drive comes in a good second. With this method a software programme is used to fill every data storing part of the drive with guff data. One programme that I have previously used fills the drive with ’1′s, then ’0′s and then repeats this cycle 3 times. For larger drives, this will take an eternity but it does work and will certainly erase your data. ‘Boot and Nuke’ and ‘kill disk’ are popular software tools for wiping disks, but there are many out there. Some are free and some not.
If you are determined and don’t think you have the skill yourself, then there are specialist (and non-specialist) companies that can undertake the task for you. However, it does mean giving your drive to someone – which may introduce another risk. So it would probably be easier and cheaper to destroy the drive and buy a new one.
If you are selling or giving the PC away, you will need to re-install the operating system. So go hunt the original media you received or created when you get the PC.
Oh, and without teaching granny to suck eggs, don’t forget too back up or transfer your data first…