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Why Improved Data Storage Is Making Us Greener

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Over the past few decades, data has become essential to how we live our lives – from allowing us to pass information from one person to another, to entertaining us, to helping us preserve our memories. Today, most of this data storage happens behind the scenes; we’ve already gotten used to tiny forms of data storage, and saved information located in the “cloud”—a buzzy term for data stored remotely. But data hasn’t always been stored so invisibly.

In fact, data storage has a history of inefficiency, and advancements in that efficiency are pushing this critical feature of our society higher and higher. So how exactly is better data storage helping us live more efficient lives?

A Brief History of Data Storage: Smaller and Smaller

As recapped by Disk Copy, “data storage” as we know it can be traced back to the 1700s, when the textile industry used punch cards, and later tape to store information for use in automatic looms. Here, bits of information were stored as tiny dots, which would tell the loom what materials to include where. This technology remained the height of data storage for nearly 200 years.

The mid-20th Century saw a host of new developments, including magnetic tape, which could hold approximately 10,000 times as much information as a basic punch card.  From there, floppy disks were created, the first ones of which could hold only 80 KB of information on 8 inches of space; this seems almost laughable today, but was a major technological breakthrough. Future floppies would hold 250 MB on only 3 inches of space. CDs and DVDs replaced floppy disks, and were followed by USB Flash drives, which could hold hundreds of Gigabytes of information in an amount of space the size of your thumb.

Solving the Efficiency Problem

We’ve come a long way in the advancement of data storage technology, but some of the central problems of efficiency still exist:

– Depleting resources. Most early forms of data storage were comprised of physical materials, such as paper and plastic. Relying on these forms of storage meant putting a greater burden on our natural resources.

– Using energy. Vessels for data storage must be created, usually in factories that churn out millions of these items. It takes significant energy to produce these end products from raw materials.

– Creating waste. Older forms of data storage created lots of waste. Imagine that just 25 years ago, floppy disks were the prime choice in storage; millions of them were in active circulation. Now, you can’t even find a computer with a floppy disk drive and all those old disks now rest, useless in landfills. Even though we’re using significantly fewer materials than ever before, physical waste remains an issue.

How are we mitigating these efficiency problems?

– Storing more information on less space. First, we’re developing the capacity to store more information on less space. These advancements allow us to imprint data on smaller and smaller grooves on certain materials, going to a microscopic level to conserve space. This is what’s responsible for our forms of data storage getting smaller, while the amount of data we can store keeps going up.

– Using newer materials for storage. We’re also using newer, more innovative materials to produce our items for data storage. For example, using recycled materials alone can increase the efficiency of production, and reduce the total amount of energy required to make new materials.

– Relying on group-based storage solutions. We’re also using more advanced forms of publically accessible storage, such as cloud technology that allows millions of users to connect to the same, practically invisible platform. Of course, all the data stored in the “cloud” exists on a remotely hosted piece of physical hardware, but this mode of storage reduces our cumulative need for more physical resources.

Already, we’re leading more efficient lives thanks to the development of data storage technology, and the future of data storage will likely evolve even further. We’re using fewer resources, expending less energy, and creating less waste, yet at the same time, we’re storing more information than ever before.

Look forward to the next great developments in data storage, and appreciate how far we’ve come.

 

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Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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