Storing the Web + Tips for Document Storage

We’re big on doing what we can to reduce our carbon footprint.  It’s why we’re installing solar panels on the rooftops of many of our properties. It’s why we’ve partnered with recycling companies to act as a public drop-off point for items that would otherwise end up in landfills, and it’s why we love to retrofit existing buildings into self storage properties.

One of the biggest advances for environmentalism has been the rise of the internet and the shift of so much of our lives to a paperless existence.  We were wondering though, how much paper would you need to print the internet…all of it, and how much space would you need to store it all?

Two students at the University of Leicester in the U.K. did some research.  Looking at indexed web pages (there’s really no way to estimate how many pages make up the Deep Web), they came up with a number of 4.54 billion web pages (as of February 2015).  They estimated the average page could be printed on 15 to 30 pieces of paper.  That leaves us with a range of 68.1 to 136 billion pieces of paper needed to print the internet.

We’ll split the difference and call it 102 billion pieces of paper needed.  With 500 sheets of paper in a standard ream, you’d need 204 million reams of paper.  How much storage would you need for all that paper?

A ream is 8.5 inches wide, 11 inches high and 2 inches thick.  In a standard 10’x10’ unit, you could conveniently make layers containing 100 reams.  Recommended stacking practices say you shouldn’t go any higher than you can easily reach, so we’ll go 8 feet up.  That means we can store 4800 reams of paper in a standard storage unit.  So you’d need 42,500 standard storage units to hold all the paper needed to print the internet.

Now obviously no one is ever going to do this, but self storage can be an ideal option for document storage.  Birth certificates, marriage licenses, diplomas and even old greeting cards or your kids’ drawings are the type of documents you’ll always want and need.  Business owners may need to archive purchase orders, sales records, tax information or personnel files.  We’ve just learned how quickly paper can take up space, so finding a convenient place off-site or outside your home may be the most ideal option.

If you do need space for document storage, you should definitely consider a climate-controlled storage unit.  Moisture is the worst enemy of stored paper.  By maintaining constant, moderate temperatures, climate-controlled storage helps control the build-up of moisture in your storage unit.

Keep your stored documents in acid-free, cardboard boxes or plastic tubs.  Do not store them in direct light as they will fade over time.  Put a wooden pallet in your storage unit, and then stack your boxes on it.  Concrete is porous, so moisture can seep in slowly over time.  The pallet will provide a buffer between your boxes and the ground.

Try to keep all stored documents properly organized and label all boxes.  This will make finding specific paperwork much, much easier.

Know what to keep and for how long.  Not all documents need to be kept permanently.  Rotate documents you no longer need out to help keep your storage unit better organized.  Don’t just throw that paperwork away.  Shred it yourself before recycling the paper.  If there’s a lot of it, contact a shredding service.

The internet has helped take much of what used to happen on paper into the virtual world, but plenty of things in our lives still leave hard copies.  Follow these basic tips to keep your documents well-organized and in fine condition for when you need them.