Cloud Storage – Courier Pigeons faster than internet!

Cloud Storage – Courier Pigeons faster than internet! (Published in Western Sydney Business Acess)

The pigeon has long been used to courier data with dependable speed and drop-out rates. Getting files backed up or moved to an off-site location can sometimes take hours, depending on the size of the data transfer and your internet connection. This article is a fun but informative comparison of the speed of an internet connection versus the alternatives, both ancient and modern.

Here are some traditional methods of getting data from point to point, including their strengths and weaknesses. Those of you that use tape or hard drives for off-site back-up are familiar with either Sneaker Net or Auto Net. Some of you already use the cloud for some or all of your computing, storage or back-up, so you should also be aware that sending data by courier is cheaper and faster than the internet when using large files. One of the leaders in offering cloud computing, Amazon, offers Federal Express as one of their standard options.

Definition Challenges Benefits Decision points
Pigeon NetCost: $25/birdOn-going:$25/month Using Avian couriers to move data via memory stick

– 50%  Dropout rates (high latency)

– Not secure (memory stick drops from sky!)

– Dependable speeds-  Can purchase 4 for $100 –  Use pigeons when you want to have fun or for difficult locations
Courier Net (sometimes called Sneaker Net) Use your feet or courier to walk data to your location – Requires persistence and dedication.  Cannot “set and forget”

– Need to find reliable courier

– Can usually find same day or next day services.

– Low cost.

– Can send 1 TB within Sydney for less than $8

– Use when location is close-by and next day is okay.
Internet –Bonded ADSL 2+ (to ensure 1 Mbps download)

Cost: Up to $120 per month for bonded ADSL

Send your data via ADSL.Fastest speed is typically 8 Mbits / second down and 1 Mbits / sec. upload

– Speed very dependent on distance to exchange

– Theoretical Max upload speeds is 1 Mbits per second

– Can “set and forget”

– Plan on taking 3 hours for every 1 GB of data for average ADSL connection.

– For large files, use ADSL after hours

– Okay for small files

There have been a few practical jokers who have held a publicity event showing that Courier Pigeons are faster than the local internet. One was done in South Africa and one in UK.

In South Africa, an IT company strapped a 4 GB data stick to a carrier pigeon. The pigeon, named Winston, took approximately two hours and seven minutes to get data to another office about 60 Kilometers away, including the hour to move the data to/from the memory stick. The Telkom ADSL line still had 96% of the data to go and Winston was relaxing! A similar pigeon race experiment was held in Yorkshire, UK. A five minute video was placed on a memory stick and sent to BBC office 75 miles away.   Again, the pigeon won the race with the internet. (For more pigeon net information, search “IP over Avian” on Wikipedia.)

Okay. Reality check. The price of storage is cheap as chips! Let’s put in perspective.

Scenario 1

Buy a 4 GB Memory stick for less than $20.00. Send your files anywhere in Australia for less than $5.00 with arrival in nearby areas the next day (Australia Post).

Total cost: $25 with a reusable memory stick.
Total time: About 1 hour if your post office is nearby.
(Caution: You should encrypt your data if information is sensitive.)
If you have 2 GB to send, it will take your fast ADSL connection about 5 hours to send. (I define a fast ADSL connection as 1 Megabite/second upload.)
Total cost: $120/month for bonded ADSL*.
Total Time: 5 hours of waiting to get your computer back.

(Note: If you are constantly moving data/images around as part of your day-to-day business, you will likely incur additional data charges or experience the slowness of “shaping” your data when you exceed your monthly quota.)

Scenario 2

You can buy a TB Hard Drive for around $120.00, back up your server and ship overnight via Australia Post to another location in Sydney for less than $8.00. If you have about 500 gigibytes (1/2 TB) to send, it would take approximately 43 days via a fast ADSL internet connection! Even a 100MB fiber connection will take a half day.

There is a great article related to this subject on Low Tech Magazine where the writer quips: “Sending 500 gigabytes goes faster by foot than by DSL from the moment the distance is less than 1,225 kilometres (761 miles)”.

Contact Empower IT Solutions for more advice.


  1. Amazon cloud uses FedEx instead of the Internet to ship data.  Article in PC World, June 2010.   A convenient method of transferring large data, June 2010
  2. Pigeon Net