How Much Is Enough? Part One of a Series by Kristan L. Anderson, CEBS®, CFP®

April 29, 2024 By Kristan L. Anderson, CEBS®, CFP®
Data Storage across the world. West Financial Systems

It is a loaded question and one that changes depending on what need or want you are referring to. For that reason, we thought to tackle this discussion as a series, looking at different categories and how our perception of “enough” may need some more thoughtful intervention.

As a financial planner, you might think I’d start with money.  But I think a better starting place is my other favorite topic, data. In my archival studies, we explored what content we should archive and how to organize our choices.  You might have a seemingly innocuous piece of data that, when put in a different context becomes very informative.  The desire to keep everything so that you don’t lose something that may have future value is very strong.  Anyone who has cleaned out their attic or basement of cherished family items knows what I’m talking about.

But keeping everything is not a viable solution as there just isn’t room for it all.  Plus, saving everything without putting some thought into why you are saving it and trying to create that context is a lesson in chaos. You will never be able to access that data in an efficient way, so saving it is a waste of time and space in the end.  One other important note:  cloud storage is not something that exists in the air, but it is storage in a data center (a very real and tangible building), generally owned and operated by one of the usual suspects: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. 

Which brings me to a fact that I recently learned that Northern Virginia is the largest data center provider in the world.  Apparently, the need for server farms exploded during the pandemic and hasn’t slowed down as we adjust to hybrid work environments and paperless offices.  The industry expects to continue growing with artificial intelligence technology.  This means building large warehouses to hold the servers and all that data and fueling technology with increasing amounts of electricity, which is in turn straining the power grid.

Does anyone else see the irony that we are using up land and energy resources to build and maintain large data centers that house servers saving all the digital data from our business and personal lives?  Paper seems a lot less of a problem in this context.  And I wonder how much of that data has been curated and organized in a way that makes it easily accessible for a stated need or use in the future?

Now that you know that keeping every photo, video, email, message, and random document on a device could add to the glut of digital storage that can and will create real environmental issues, do you feel any responsibility to address how much data is enough?  Personally, I will revisit all the data that I currently store on my various computers and phones.  Yes, it will be a long and somewhat tedious process.  But if I can curate this data, assess its viability and usability, and create a way to organize it effectively, then I feel I will have cleaned up my corner of the data universe.

Meet Kristan L. Anderson, CEBS®, CFP® »

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