As the push for businesses to adopt eco-friendly practices gains momentum, IT leaders are searching for ways to bring greener technologies and more environmentally responsible strategies to their organizations. See how you can boost efficiency and reduce costs by going green.
"Going green" is the hot new trend in the business world, and that naturally filters down to the IT department. Implemented correctly, eco-friendly tactics can make your operations more efficient and save you money.
The goals of green IT include minimizing the use of hazardous materials, maximizing energy efficiency, and encouraging recycling and/or use of biodegradable products — without negatively affecting productivity. In this article, we'll look at 10 ways to implement green IT practices in your organization.
Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.
#1: Buy energy efficient hardware
New offerings from major hardware vendors include notebooks, workstations, and servers that meet the EPA's Energy Star guidelines for lower power consumption. Look for systems that have good EPEAT ratings (www.epeat.net). The ratings use standards set by the IEEE to measure "environmental performance." All EPEAT-registered products must meet Energy Star 4.0 criteria.
Multicore processors increase processing output without substantially increasing energy usage. Also look for high efficiency (80%) power supplies, variable speed temperature controlled fans, small form factor hard drives, and low voltage processors.
#2: Use power management technology and best practices
Modern operating systems running on Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)-enabled systems 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.
Hardware vendors have their own power management software, which they load on their systems or offer as options. 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.
There are also many third-party power management products that can provide further flexibility and control over computers' energy consumption. Some programs make it possible to manually reduce the power voltage to the CPU. Others can handle it automatically on systems with Intel SpeedStep or AMD Cool'n'Quiet technologies.
Other technologies, such as Intel's vPro, allow you to turn computers on and off remotely, thus saving energy because you don't have to leave systems on if you want, for example, to schedule a patch deployment at 2:00 A.M.
#3: Use virtualization technology to consolidate servers
You can reduce the number of physical servers, and thus the energy consumption, by using virtualization technology to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical server. Because many servers are severely underutilized (in many cases, in use only 10 to 15 percent of the time they're running), the savings can be dramatic. VMWare claims that its virtualized infrastructure can decrease energy costs by as much as 80 percent.
The same type of benefits can be realized with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology, which is an integrated operating system feature of Windows Server 2008.
#4: 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. The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) proposes such practices as powering down selected drives, using slower drives where possible, and not overbuilding power/cooling equipment based on peak power requirements shown in label ratings.
#5: Optimize data center design
Data centers are huge consumers of energy, and cooling all the equipment is a big issue. Data center 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 center.
Another way to "green" the data center is to use low-powered blade servers and more energy-efficient uninterruptible power supplies, which can use 70 percent less power than a legacy UPS.
Optimum data center design for saving energy should also take into account the big picture, by considering the use of alternative energy technologies (photovoltaics, evaporative cooling, etc.) and catalytic converters on backup generators, and from the ground up, by minimizing the footprints of the buildings themselves. Energy-monitoring systems provide the information you need to measure efficiency. This Microsoft TechNet article discusses various ways to build a green data center.
#6: Use thin clients to reduce GPU power usage
Another way to reduce the amount of energy consumed by computers is to deploy thin clients. Because most of the processing is done on 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 lifecycles.
Last year, a Verizon spokesman said the company had decreased energy consumption by 30 percent by replacing PCs with thin clients, saving about $1 million per year.
#7: Use more efficient displays
If you have old CRT monitors still in use, replacing them with LCD displays can save up to 70 percent 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.
LG recently released what it claims is the world's most energy efficient LCD monitor, the Flatron W2252TE. Tests have shown that it uses less than half the power of conventional 22-inch monitors.
#8: Recycle systems and supplies
To reduce the load on already overtaxed landfills and to avoid sending hazardous materials to those landfills (where they can leach into the environment and cause harm), old systems and supplies can be reused, repurposed, and/or recycled. 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 (thus saving money and avoiding unnecessary e-waste).
Old electronics 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 nonprofit organizations, 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.
#9: 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. An internal study conducted by HP showed that a Fortune 500 company can save 800 tons of paper per year (a savings of over $7 million) by printing on both sides.
#10: Encourage telecommuting
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.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.