Every day, 720,000 hours worth of content is uploaded to YouTube. With such a huge influx of videos on a regular basis, it's easy to wonder how much storage space YouTube has and what its limits are.
While Google has never provided exact details regarding their data centers and storage capabilities, there are a number of calculations and theories out there.
Today we'll be exploring these theories, plus we'll take a look at YouTube's single upload limit, channel upload limit, and how YouTube stores data from uploads.
Google has never given an exact number when it comes to YouTube storage capacity, though there has been much speculation around this in recent years.
Most estimates conclude that YouTube has at least one exabyte (1,000,000 terabytes) of storage space in its data centers.
To help illustrate the full enormity of this, popular webcomic XKCD broke down an estimate of Google's potential storage capacity visually.
So how exactly does YouTube store their global digital data?
Understanding YouTube's Video Distribution Strategy
YouTube uses a complex data distribution method that prioritizes optimal user experience (meaning video loading speed above all else).
Here's how it works:
1. Local Storage for New Content: When a user uploads a new video, YouTube's initial storage strategy is to place that content in the nearest data center. This localized approach might be why sometimes, when you come across a video with few views, you might notice prolonged buffering times or slower loading speeds.
2. Global Distribution for Popular Content: As a video's viewership starts climbing, YouTube begins to distribute copies of that video to multiple data centers globally. It ensures that audiences from different parts of the world can access the content swiftly and smoothly. That's the secret behind why trending videos and advertisements load almost instantaneously.
3. The Challenge of Estimating Storage: While we may have insights into the volume of videos being uploaded to YouTube, estimating the platform's total storage needs is no easy feat. Why? Because a singular video might be stored once or multiple times in various locations, depending on its popularity.
What Affects YouTube's Storage Capacity?
There are a few elements that impact YouTube's storage capacity - by either helping to free up space, or use it up. This includes video compression and the storage of backups.
YouTube compresses all video uploads, which means your original upload might be larger than what YouTube ends up storing. This helps YouTube optimize its storage space, but it can often impact overall video quality.
Google backs up every video uploaded to YouTube multiple times in order to ensure that content remains available even in the case of unforeseen circumstances. While this is good news for media archiving, it comes at the cost of storage space.
When you upload videos, how long are they stored? The real answer is: it depends.
Even if you delete a video, it doesn't immediately disappear from YouTube's storage. As per Google's data retention policy, upload data may be retained for a certain period of time even after it's been taken down from your channel.
Google typically retains user data for the duration that is required to serve its users, and it offers users the ability to delete or manage their data.
After a specified period, Google either deletes or anonymizes this data. Users do have the right to request the deletion of their data at any time. The exact retention periods can vary depending on the type of data and how it's used.
By default, a new unverified YouTube account has an upload limit of 15 minutes per YouTube video, to prevent spam inappropriate content.
This is increased to 12 hours per video (or a file size of 256 GB, whichever is reached first) once the account has been verified. Upload limits are changed regularly, so it's possible to find video content longer than 12 hours long on YouTube - and it's also possible that this will change in the future.
YouTube's Verified Upload Limit:
How To Verify Your YouTube Account
To check if your account is verified or not, visit the YouTube account features page within your Studio dashboard.
There should be a green Enabled box to the right of all three features. If not, you'll need to verify your account.
To verify your YouTube account to unlock the higher upload limit, visit the YouTube verification page via a desktop browser.
Input your phone number.
You'll have the option to receive a code via text or automated message.
Input the code into the required field, and you're all set.
Once your account has been verified there is no actual total limit for uploads on your channel. Theoretically you could upload an unlimited number of videos on your YouTube channel over time.
However, there is a daily quota limit for the number of videos you can upload and the number of times you can update previously uploaded videos.
So how many videos can you upload per day before you hit the limit?
Currently, the daily video quota is suspected to be around 15 videos. This quota resets daily. While there are reports of over 100 videos uploaded per user per day, these are unsubstantiated.
Along with this, it's unclear whether or not file size and video length impact this limit or whether the video's privacy settings make a difference.
How To Decrease A Video Upload Size
Since the upload limit is 12 hours OR 256 GB (whichever is reached first), you'll need to make sure you don't hit the size limit when uploading larger videos, even if they're not close to the time limit.
You can do this by using a free video compression service like Handbrake, which will decrease your video's total size while maintaining its overall quality.
My Account Is Verified, But I Can't Upload Long Videos
If you've already verified your account and have been able to upload longer videos in the past, but are unable to now, you should check your YouTube account for any copyright strikes or other limits.
Once you've resolved the strikes or claims, you should be able to upload videos without issue.