What is Green I.T?

Green IT or computing is the way in which businesses can become environmentally responsible and eco-friendly in the use of their computers and their technology resources. Not can it relate to the use of the businesses systems and resources but it can also relate to the way in which companies design, engineer, manufacture and dispose of computing devices in a way that reduces their environmental impact.

Many people these days place value on products that are more friendly on the environment even if they have to pay that little extra.  Many IT manufacturers and vendors are investing a lot more time and money in the end to end design of their energy-efficient products, reducing the use of dangerous materials and encouraging the recycling of digital devices. With technology growing at a rapid pace and the life-cycle of products becoming smaller with newer products being released sooner there is increasing concerns about the impact on the environment.  Especially in terms of energy efficiency and the reduction in emissions and toxic waste.

A move towards Green I.T can involve:

  • Buy energy-efficient hardware
  • Reducing  waste
  • Use power management technology and best practices
  • Use virtualisation technology to consolidate servers Server and storage virtualisation to decrease hardware needs
  • Consolidate storage with SAN/NAS solutions
  • Create eco-friendly products
  • Move to a “Green” optimally designed data centre
  • Use thin clients to reduce GPU power usage
  • Purchase energy-efficient displays/ monitors
  • Recycle systems and supplies
  • Reduce paper consumption
  • Enabling staff to telecommute
  • Promote teleconferencing and collaboration tools
  • Use cloud-based and software as a service (SaaS) solutions

The goals of green IT include minimising the use of hazardous materials, maximising energy efficiency, and encouraging recycling and/or use of biodegradable products — without negatively affecting productivity. In this blog, we’ll expand on the list outlined above and ways you can look  to implement green IT practices in your organisation.

What can you do?

Buy energy efficient hardware

Most major hardware vendors strive to meet the EPA’s Energy Star guidelines for lower power consumption with ratings set by the IEEE that measure “environmental performance”. When it comes to exploring new hardware replacements and upgrades, look for systems that have good EPEAT ratings (www.epeat.net). When it comes to buying notebooks, workstations and servers, multi-core processors are most efficient on power while increasing processing output so spend a little extra will benefit performance and lower the environmental impact. Also look for high efficiency (80%) power supplies, variable speed temperature-controlled fans, small form factor hard drives, and low voltage processors.  I.T management should factor this when deciding between vendors. the extra cost to go green can save power costs long term.

Reducing  waste

Reducing waste in the workplace is a great way to help the environment and can easily be done by re-using and recycling things you were going to throw out and by choosing products that use less packaging and biodegradable materials.  Some manufacturers, in my experience Dell, have started shipping their monitors without using Styrofoam, instead of using cardboard shaped in a way that it supports the asset even better without the negative environmental impact.

Utilise power management technology and best practices

Modern operating systems running on Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)-enabled systems to incorporate power-saving features that allow you to configure monitors and hard disks to power down after a specified period of inactivity. Systems can be set to hibernate when not in use, thus powering down the CPU and RAM as well.

You can also opt to use the power management software can will often come with the most leading hardware manufacturer. For example, HP’s Power Manager provides real-time reporting that shows how the settings you have configured affect the energy used by the computer.  If you do not have software from your manufacturer there are also many third-party power management products that can provide further flexibility and control over computers’ energy consumption.

Use virtualization technology to consolidate servers

Server virtualisation can reduce your requirement for the number of physical servers and hardware and will result in a reduction in energy consumption. Virtualisation technology is the concept where you can run multiple virtual machines on a single physical server. Servers that use their own hardware are in most cases severely underutilised.  Virtualisation takes advantage of this underutilisation and takes spare CPU, Memory and hard drive space to run additional servers on the same hardware. VMWare claims that its virtualisation infrastructure can decrease energy costs by as much as 80 per cent.

Consolidate storage with SAN/NAS solutions

Just as server consolidation saves energy, so does consolidation of storage using storage area networks and network-attached storage solutions. If you do not need to use saved data on a frequent basis, SAN and NAS are the options applicable for storage devices. When you are using fewer servers connected to a SAN or NAS there is a reduction in cooling requirements and CPU resources by using configuration options to power down drives when not in use or use slower and more energy-efficient drives where possible.

Use a “Green” optimally designed data centre

A lot of companies are now opting to move their on-premise infrastructure to the cloud, and one of the reasons for this is the massive cost and energy savings involved. But data centres can still be huge consumers of energy because of all of the equipment they are housing and cooling.  It’s important to choose a Data centre that has taken the time and money with power consumption in mind for the design.  A data centre design that incorporates hot aisle and cold aisle layout, coupled cooling (placing cooling systems closer to heat sources), and liquid cooling can tremendously reduce the energy needed to run the data centre.

Other ways data centres can look to go  “green” is to use low-powered blade servers, considering the use of alternative energy technologies (photovoltaics, evaporative cooling, etc.)  and more energy-efficient uninterruptible power supplies, which can use 70 per cent less power than a legacy UPS.

Use thin clients to reduce GPU power usage

Develop a thin-client strategy. Netbooks and other thin clients use about half the power of a traditional desktop PC. Because most of the processing is taken off the local machine and is handled by the server, the thin clients use very little energy. In fact, a typical thin client uses less power while up and running applications than an Energy Star compliant PC uses in sleep mode. Thin clients are also ecologically friendly because they generate less e-waste. There’s no hard drive, less memory, and fewer components to be dealt with at the end of their life cycles.

Use energy efficient displays

If you have old CRT monitors still in use, replacing them with LCD displays can save up to 70 per cent in energy costs. However, not all LCD monitors are created equal when it comes to power consumption. High-efficiency LCDs are available from several vendors.

Recycle systems and supplies

Before throwing away old I.T equipment think about whether it can be recycled, re-homed or reused in any way. You can start by repurposing items within the company; for example, in many cases, when a graphics designer or engineer needs a new high-end workstation to run resource-hungry programs, the old computer is perfectly adequate for use by someone doing word processing, spreadsheets, or other less intensive tasks. This hand-me-down method allows two workers to get better systems than they had while requiring the purchase of only one new machine.

Each year, over 300 million household batteries are thrown away with ordinary waste, meaning a staggering 8,000 tonnes of batteries end up in a landfill. Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery take-back service where you can return your unwanted batteries for recycling.

Old electronic devices can also be reused by those outside the company. You can donate old computers and other devices still in working order to schools and non-profit organisations, which can still get a lot of use out of them. Finally, much electronic waste can be recycled, the parts used to make new items. Things like old printer cartridges, old cell phones, and paper can all be recycled. Some computer vendors, such as Dell, have programs to take back computers and peripherals for recycling.

Reduce paper consumption

Another way to save money while reducing your company’s impact on the environment is to reduce your consumption of paper. You can do this by switching from a paper-based to an electronic workflow: creating, editing, viewing, and delivering documents in digital rather than printed form. Send documents as e-mail attachments rather than faxing.

And when printing is unavoidable, you can still reduce waste and save money by setting your printers to use duplex (double-sided) printing as a default. Another great option is to implement secure print where the user is required to release their jobs when they get to the printer.  This eliminates the piles of unclaimed printouts sitting at the printer due to accidental prints and when users forget they had printed their documents.

Enabling staff to telecommute

The ultimate way to have a greener office to have less office. By encouraging as many workers as possible to telecommute, you can reduce the amount of office space that needs to be heated and cooled, the number of computers required on-site, and the number of miles driven by employees to get to and from work. Telecommuting reduces costs for both employers and employees and can also reduce the spread of contagious diseases.

Promote teleconferencing and collaboration tools

Using videoconferencing and collaboration technology can greatly reduce travel time typically needed for meetings and result in a reduction in carbon emissions.  The successful use of audio conferencing and collaboration tools is as much about organisational issues as it is about technology. It must be embedded as part of an institution’s overall strategy for enabling communication. It needs a budget, strategy and relationships to other strategic areas such as travel and flexible working policies.

Use cloud-based and software as a service (SaaS) solutions

Cloud computing is becoming more popular amongst organisations for a whole host of reasons,  Not only do you no longer require the local hardware to run the same service on-premise they generally allow access from anywhere which can assist in enabling the ability to telecommute. While huge data centres require a lot of electricity, it’s still a lot less than the thousands of office-grade computers it would take to perform the same big tasks.

The business value of green IT

Global warming is already having significant and costly effects on our communities, our health, and our climate.

Unless we take immediate action to reduce global warming emissions, these impacts will continue to intensify, grow ever more costly and damaging, and increasingly affect the entire planet — including you, your community, and your family.

Organisations are starting to realise the impact of global warming so all businesses are morally in charge of helping.  But this is not necessarily the biggest reason for businesses to move towards green I.T.  One of the major reasons why green I.T is gaining momentum is for cost savings.   Reduced spending on equipment and energy, paper and ink, tax breaks and other financial incentives make green IT a practical way for companies to save money.

Environmental regulations created to address climate change force businesses to be environmentally friendly. Consequently, new economic opportunities exist. Supplying and servicing energy-efficient equipment and developing green technology are just some of the ways in which companies can grow revenue and fuel job growth in a low-carbon economy.

Investing in green IT, and telling people about it, is good PR. People believe global warming is a real threat and more needs to be done to combat climate change. Companies demonstrating initiative in this area show they are responsive to investors, customers, and consumers alike.

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