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What Does the Internet Sound Like?

John Huntington
May 30, 2014

Have you ever used your smartphone to download an app? Watch a video? Or, as a business owner, have you colocated to a data center like ours over at Telx? Used the cloud to house data? In any of these cases, you’ve used the Internet—and the immense power behind it—to your advantage. But what does the Internet actually sound like?

As The Atlantic noted in a recent article, a sound artist, Matt Parker, has been making his way around data centers in the U.K. to find out. Parker, who’s working on a project about data center and cloud computing, most recently visited Birmingham City University over in the U.K. to take a few recordings and inform us all about what the Internet really sounds like.

You can hear a couple of recordings—one original, and one ‘remixed’ into a composition—over on the Cities and Memory blog. Descriptions of what a data center—the heart of the Internet—sounds like vary from the sound of a fan in your computer multiplied by several thousand times, to white noise and buzzing hard drives. (The same is true at most of our Telx data centers. As it turns out, the sounds of data center hardware don’t vary too much, no matter where you are.)

In any case, Parker’s most recent project is an interesting reminder that “whilst [our] phones might be sat silently in [our] pockets, somewhere out there, a huge hive of hard drives and fans is spinning around frantically; managing our digital identities.”

So the next time you pull out your phone, access data housed at a Telx data center, or use the cloud to send a file to a friend or coworker, remember: behind all of those transactions are data centers, housing the data that drives our daily lives.

You’ve now heard what a data center sounds like—but what about what happens when you, say, access a streaming video on Netflix? Take a listen to Ben Gonyea, Vice President of Product here at Telx, in his interview on NPR’s Planet Money, where he explains just that.

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