Why we always leave our computers on

There is no doubt that the proliferation of computers and especially data centers containing hundreds or thousands of servers has dramatically increased energy consumption around the world over the past fifteen or twenty years.  It has been reported that some data centers are not able to expand due to a lack of power, especially in California, where energy costs are high. 

In a previous post on the subject of the Microsoft Update process, I wrote that we have the employees in our company always leave their computers on.  I explained that there were at least three reasons for this:

  1. To facilitate the Microsoft patch update process
  2. To allow the weekly Symantec anti-virus scans to run
  3. To ensure that IT staff can access the computers via Remote Desktop

A Tech Republic subscriber, Michael Burgess suggested that a policy of leaving computes on 24/7/365 is simply not environmentally friendly.  He wrote: "I am concerned that when you leave your computers on; do you leave them on all of the time or just when you are doing an update? Doing this consumes a ton of power, ac, not to mention security issues."  I concur that leaving computers on like this all over the world consumes a lot of power.

As I replied, "This has been a major argument, and I mean argument, for as long as I have been supporting computers. There are two camps on this issue. The subject is worthy of a well-researched post, which I may just do if I can't find one already written here on Tech Republic."  I have researched the subject on Tech Republic and found a few posts.

  1. Andy Moon wrote about Tech giants going green back in June of 07.  The post received two comments.
  2. Arun Radhackrishnan wrote that Green is the flavor of the season also in June of 07.  Four comments.
  3. Arun pointed us to an Online carbon footprint and power consumption calculator in Dec 07.  No comments.

There are a few other posts but that's typical of the response to green computing posts - just not much interest.  So unless you have something to add about the environmental impact of leaving computers on all the time, I would prefer to direct the dialog to answer this question: "Is it OK to leave my computer on all the time?"

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the arguments from both camps as found in the article above or this one. Now think about each of these components involved: heat generation, fans, ball bearings, lubrication, power supplies, sleep mode, boot-up time, CRT vs LCD, hard drives, lightning, surge protection, chip temp, electricity.

Now convincingly argue your side.  I am on the side of leaving computers on all the time.  I have already given you my main reasons at the beginning of the post.  There are others.  More facts: We have a dozen servers and about 120 computers.  I think this is typical of a small business but I am curious about the policy in large business.  Ready?  Go!