Author: Government recordkeeping

At Public Record Office Victoria we are very interested in the energy efficiency of digital recordkeeping as we move into an era when government services will be hosted in the cloud.

A new paper by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and North Western University provides some interesting clues about the energy efficiency of digital records.

The paper investigates the energy efficiency of streaming video content versus viewing DVDs. A variety of DVD delivery methods are considered (mail ordering, buying from a shop and renting). Their headline conclusion is that streaming is substantially more energy efficient than viewing DVDs, but dig deeper and some suggestive findings emerge.

  • Most of the energy usage in both modes occurs when viewing video and most of the efficiency of streaming is due to more modern and efficient viewing devices. This suggests that agencies should carefully consider the age of their desktop systems and the energy efficiency of any replacement technology.
  • Transmission requires significant energy use. Video streaming has roughly the same energy costs for delivery as the use of using cars to pick up DVDs, and substantially more than the delivery of DVDs by mail. This is interesting for agencies that need to ship records around and for archives that require researchers to travel to the archive to physically view records. In the future we may be considering 'energy miles' as well as 'food miles'.
  • For streaming, the data centre uses <1% of the total energy usage. This indicates the possible energy efficiency of using very large specialist data centres (i.e. the cloud) where the economics of scale allow for a variety of energy saving technologies. However, it also indicates that the greatest energy savings occur in delivery and viewing, not in storage.


Read The energy and greenhouse-gas implications of internet video streaming in the United States paper here.