Hardware

What can the helpdesk do for global warming?

Indeed, what can the industry do about it? It has become clear that we all need to reduce our energy consumption, because wasted electrical power benefits nobody except maybe for the power companies who are selling it. It is really a matter of re-educating a work force that was brought up to treat energy as a cheap commodity. Those of you with teenage children will know what I mean — try getting a 14-year-old to turn off lights, TVs, Hi-Fi systems, heaters, or air conditioners when they leave a room.

The bottom line is: we have to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Wind, wave, and solar power are becoming more common, but the cost of replacing coal or gas-fired power stations with green alternatives is quite literally astronomical. We can help by meeting the problem from the other end: the more we reduce our consumption, the more we can ease the burden on those attempting to tackle a problem that could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet. Walk past any city centre office block at night and look in the window. You will see PCs showing their screen savers, whole banks of lights blazing away, even heaters and air con units running flat out for nobody. Did you know that switching a TV to standby only reduces the power consumption by around 15% on average? Actually turning it off saves you money. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate keeping a little more of their hard-earned money, yet this practice is rife all over the world.

There have been arguments about the wisdom of turning off PCs when not in use. Some say that leaving them running prolongs the life of the hard disk. Others, including myself, prefer to save the energy. There is an argument that it takes more energy to switch lights on than it saves to turn them off. I draw your attention to the Myth Busters show on the Discovery Channel where they researched this in detail. The lights with the highest power surge on start up were fluorescent tubes. The “pay back” time for these was .36 of a second. In effect, this meant that if you are going to leave a room for less than this time, it is not worth turning them off. Any longer, and you will help your carbon footprint and budget by turning them off.

Here in the UK, where energy is considerably more expensive than in the USA, we are beginning to come around to this kind of practice. To give you an idea, unleaded petrol or gasoline costs about $8.80 a gallon, and diesel costs a little more. Many network managers like to have workstations left on at night so that they can deploy upgrades, but there is no need for the monitor to stay on, especially if they are CRT type, which are responsible for 80% of a PC’s consumption. If the support services in IT lead the way and cut energy dependence, we can use our position to spread the culture through our businesses. We could even be responsible for an increase in profits.

To me it is a win-win situation, and we would be mad not to take advantage of this opportunity.

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