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Facebook's Data Center Keeps Your News Feed Ready

Lucy Perkins

Have you ever thought about where your status updates and profile pictures really go after you post them on Facebook? Turns out, your online presence might live closer to you than you think. Facebook’s Forest City data center stores a lot of our online profiles. 

Dylan Hawkins is 21 and from Rutherford County. While his friends are on Facebook, he’s at Facebook’s data center in Forest City. It’s one of five in the world. He works with the servers that store the bits and pieces of our online lives.

"Some are caching information so it will take milliseconds instead of seconds," Hawkins says.

These servers help store information for the 890 million people who use Facebook every day.

Now, just because there’s a data center in Forest City doesn’t mean that your photos, etc. are definitely stored there for easy access. Your data goes to the center that’s most readily available – whether that’s here or in Lulea, Sweden.  

Hawkins is one of about 80 fulltime employees who work here, and describes what the data hall looks like.

"So we’re in one suite that’s probably about the size of a football field that’s full of servers…28 rows, and there’s fiber and cabling everywhere."

Noise comes from fans that are running air through the huge facility to keep the building at an optimal temperature – which is between 80 and 83 degrees.

Hawkins says he loves his job, because it’s an extension of his lifelong love of computers. Once we get into the data hall, it’s easy to see why he likes working here. There are rows and rows of servers inside the quarter-mile long building. Rainbows of cables thread through the server towers’ metal trays, with tiny blinking lights. 

If something goes wrong with a server – like if the processors or the hardware die – data center technicians like Hawkins fix it. Which, is what you might expect. There's also something you probably wouldn't expect. Outside the door to a data hall is a row of scooters. Technicians like Hawkins use them to get around quickly if there's a problem.

If one server breaks, another server fills in. Which is why Hawkins can disconnect a tray of servers and nothing goes wrong.

"So these are webbies, this is the kind of server you’d be going to when you first load Facebook, it’s your news feed, it’s sending it back," he says. 

In other words, these servers store the information you most often access.

Hawkins landed this job about three years ago with the help of a program at Isothermal Community College. He was part of the first graduating class from ICC’s Data Center Institute, which partners with Facebook to train potential employees.