Whether you're shopping for shoes, planning a trip or watching a funny video, you probably don't think much about where that website you're on actually "lives." Though they seem just to exist in some "cloud" out there in "cyberspace," all websites are actually hosted on computers, similar to the one you have at home or work. But millions of websites processing terabytes of data every day -- all of those shopping and video queries -- require much more than a single machine, and they need to be housed somewhere. While some webmasters may run their website off of a small server in their basement, more commonly websites are run off of a stack of computers (a server rack), which lives in a warehouse-type building called a data center. Almost any company that stores or processes information either owns data centers or leases space in them, including banks, insurers, airlines and of course, technology companies. To process the millions of searches, emails, documents and more that come across our servers every day, and to keep all of our services both fast and reliable for our users, we require significant computing power, and have invested heavily in servers and data centers across the world.

On May 21st, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of our newest data center in Lenoir, North Carolina. The Lenoir facility has set a precedent for Google community involvement: hundreds of our closest friends -- the citizens of Caldwell County -- came on site for what we called a "Googley BBQ." Along with pulled pork from the locally-acclaimed Hannah's, attractions included Google-colored snow cones, cotton candy, a local cover band, Google demo stations, a "Meet-a-Googler" tent, and a kiddie area with face painting, stickers, crafts, and (of course) a bouncy house in Google colors.

Lenoir sits in the heart of Caldwell County, which is known for its spectacular views of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, its close-knit communities, and its hard-working citizens, and is along the famous "20 miles of furniture" on N.C. highway 321. Though many furniture industry jobs in the area have been lost in recent years, now technology companies are moving to the region, and a focus on technology education is helping to usher Caldwell into the 21st century.

Several speakers at the ribbon-cutting, including the Mayor of Lenoir, David Barlow; County Commissioner Herb Greene; and the Governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, voiced this sentiment, each hopeful that other technology companies will consider Google's presence and set up shop as well. What's not to love about an area with a beautiful landscape, a home-town feel, and such a wonderful and welcoming community? Yeah, we couldn't find anything either.

Lenoir Googlers are still floating on at least cloud seven or eight about playing host at our new site. We couldn't have done it without the local firefighters, police, Chamber of Commerce and government representatives who went out of their way to make sure everyone had fun that day -- helped, of course, by the hundreds of folks who joined us in celebrating. But what's more, we are excited that we will soon be bringing this newest data center online, as another step to ensure that our services remain lightning fast and nearly 100% reliable, no matter where on the planet you may be.

Here's a photo album from the day: