TIME TO READ: 7 MINUTES
"Green IT" may sound like a buzzword. A price-increasing one. However, Green IT solutions actually save businesses money.
Too good to be true? Not anymore. This WOOF will explain how.
What is Green IT?
"Green IT" means using your Information Technology (IT) in a way that saves on resources and protects the environment. Think computers with lower energy consumption, reducing the number of servers you need through virtualization, and recycling IT components whenever possible.
Believe it or not, you can do this without spending extra. In fact, we already have cost-effective, "greener" hardware freely available.
Think about the long-term value here. Lower power bills and lower hardware/software costs. A more efficient business, with lower IT spend.
Okay, but where do you start? With the biggest energy hogs you have running now.
IT's Biggest Power Hogs
These are the 3 biggest IT power hogs, in order from most to least.
- Datacenters. Enormous power consumption. (We know, ours gobbles up power!) According to Yale University, data centers eat up 2% of the world's electricity, and emit as much carbon dioxide as the entire U.S. airline industry.
The power cost comes from maintaining the datacenter's environment. Both in terms of running servers, and the environmental factors within the datacenter itself. Factors like:
- Airflow on/around the servers
- Heat generated from infrastructure
- Cooling the heated air
- Temperature of server parts (plastics, metal) during operation
- Temperature of cabling
- Workstations. By itself, a workstation doesn't take much power (especially laptops). They add up across the whole company though. It's a phenomenon called "Performance Growth" – more users, more devices, more add-ons (e.g. separate monitors) as time goes by.
- Networking. These use up some power since they must operate 24/7.
How Green IT Technologies Lower Power Bills
Green IT solutions provide power savings across the board, by lowering energy needed for servers, network hardware, workstations, and AC. Also, by designing datacenters to maximize airflow.
How do you know what gear to buy? Luckily, it's easy.
You may have seen the Energy Star rating before, on a game console or an appliance. Electronics with the Energy Star use less power, with higher efficiency, and less plastic used in construction.
IT hardware has Energy Star ratings, too. Even high-performance, always-on servers. For example, most IBM and Lenovo servers have excellent Energy Star ratings (which we use in our own datacenter).
Quick reference on Energy Star-rated servers: Who Offers the Greenest Servers? – Vertatique.com
Check your current servers. If they already have Energy Star ratings, you're in good shape.
What about the environmental part of your datacenter . . . heating/cooling/airflow costs? Let's turn to a few examples of Green IT taking care of this. Big examples.
Examples of Green IT
EXAMPLE 1: GOOGLE
Google has a huge datacenter in Finland, which provides many of its services to European businesses. Thousands of servers running all the time . . . it must get hot in there.
Google could have installed big, power-gobbling, carbon-dioxide belching air conditioners to keep those servers cool. They didn't. Instead, they pump cold water from the Bay of Finland in to cool the datacenter.
Near-zero power usage. A completely clean cooling solution.
Here's a video showing the datacenter cooling:
EXAMPLE 2: AMAZON
Amazon runs thousands of servers to power its Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers. They would have enormous power & cooling bills…if Amazon hadn't committed to using 100% renewable energy.
They're using solar panels and energy-efficient cooling methods. Dropping power needs by 84%. You can see details on their AWS Sustainability page.
AWS powers a big chunk of the Internet's cloud services; running them on Green IT reduces power consumption on a global scale.
EXAMPLE 3: PLANETMAGPIE
Yes, PlanetMagpie uses Green IT too! We have:
- All Energy Star-rated IBM and Lenovo servers in our datacenter.
- Lenovo laptops for our employee workstations, also with Energy Star ratings.
- Regular e-waste pickups to recycle old hardware (see our Cyber Fu tip below for more on this).
- Datacenter power purchased from East Bay Community Energy, which has higher percentages of renewable energy than PG&E.
- Our datacenter's HVAC design draws cool air from outside in to reduce cooling costs.
Now that we've seen examples and know where Green IT can save us on power costs . . . how do you implement Green IT technology at your office?
Action Steps to Bring Green IT into Your Office
- Only buy IT hardware with Energy Star ratings. The easiest step right here, since hardware needs replacement over time.
- When possible, purchase IT hardware that’s made in the USA. USA manufacturers have to comply with EPA regulations, the most stringent in the world.
- Ask your IT Department to use the EPEAT list when sourcing IT hardware. EPEAT is a resource list for sustainable IT hardware. It gives a rating on the green level: Bronze, Silver, or Gold.
- How many servers do you run? If it's more than 5, ask your IT department about virtualization. Chances are they can point to one or more servers they can virtualize. This reduces the number of physical servers running, cutting back on power use. (It also reduces the number of servers you need to replace over time, lowering industry-wide manufacturing and material resource needs.)
- Replace old power-sucking servers with new high-quality, long-lasting servers like IBM and Lenovo. Newer, Energy Star-compliant servers have higher energy efficiency. This also reduces the number of server purchases your company needs to make.
- If you maintain a datacenter, have it checked for optimal airflow & power consumption. For example, precision cooling targets only the equipment that needs cooling. This alone can save you thousands every year on your electric bills!
- If you use cloud services, check their green/sustainability policies (often published on their websites). Rackspace has a good Sustainable Policy page. Cloud services themselves are a green IT solution, because of mass virtualization (i.e., shared resources).
Save on Power and Help Preserve the Environment with Green IT Technologies
When a new movement starts up, it's often expensive to join in. The Green IT movement has been around long enough that it's now cost-effective.
Each change made produces a savings on your power bill. Not to mention lowering greenhouse gas emissions, power consumption, and preventing toxic leaks into our groundwater.
Time to "green" your business' IT? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help!