Facebook Is Tossing Your Old Pics Into 'Cold Storage'

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Facebook has a storage problem. And all of your old photos are to blame.

The social network boasts more than 240 billion pictures on its site with 350 million being added everyday. And all of those pictures are taking up a lot of virtual space—and energy. So the company is planning to move users' older pics to the attic, so to speak.

Facebook will move older pictures and back-up photos to new—more energy efficient—data centers, called "cold storage" centers.

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"Facebook has more than one billion users...so we are coming to this problem sooner than other people, but as more and more people have connected lives...finding ways to store data with greater efficiency is going to be important to everyone," said Michael Kirkland, a Facebook communications manager.

Basically, the new "cold storage" centers—which are still in construction—will be five times more energy efficient and will allow users to access old images anytime without noticing any difference.

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"There will be almost no user impact. I qualify that at saying that we are still in the process of developing this," Kirkland said. "The idea here is to find a way to store backups or older photos that don't see any activity and to back up in a way that is very energy efficient and won't impact users."

So far, there are two "cold storage" systems in the works. One is in Prineville, Ore., the other in the early construction phase in Forest City, N.C.

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Facebook already owns two existing large data centers in Prineville. Kirkland said most of the images being stored at these data centers will be backups of users' old photos. So when a user goes to view an older picture they should still be able to view it as quickly as a new image.

But, if a data center server isn't operating for some reason, the "cold storage" system then will kick in to help users access images. This process may take slightly longer to view. By keeping mostly back-up images on "cold storage" servers, Facebook hopes to ensure user impact is minimal.

"From Facebook's perspective, when a user goes to a Facebook to see an old photo, it shouldn't take five minutes to pull up," Kirkland said. "It has to be there with almost no delay, so we're engineering the best of both world's solutions."