TechnologyHow green is your IT?

How green is your IT?

What can companies do to use IT strategies to limit their environmental footprint. Our experts explain all


I want to develop greener IT strategies and deploy greener
technologies, but how do I get the support of the board?

John Madden, research director at industry analyst Ovum: Cost is a
good attention grabber. Explain to your board how much this [energy] inefficient
kit is costing you year over year.

Explain the implications of that; and explain to your employees that your
ability to invest in other areas is impacted because of the need to invest in
rising energy costs.

That should at least get the discussion going. Then you can start to point
out the benefits that come with the current generation of more energy-efficient
IT and cooling technologies.

The green agenda is being driven by big multinational companies. Is
there a case for small organisations to embrace green IT or is it just for the
big boys?

Ian Osborne, project director for trade association Intellect’s Grid
Computing Now initiative
: It applies to everyone. We all have electricity
bills, whether it’s at home, in a small business, or a large business ­ it’s
just the number of zeros on the end that tends to change. I think it’s
worthwhile for any size of business to understand what its energy costs are and
what it can do about that.

I have a colleague in the industry who is running a web hosting utility and
she started the business on the basis that it would be at least a carbon-neutral

That is a small business in itself and it is offering its service to other
small firms. So I think these principles apply everywhere and they save you
money everywhere.

Plenty of outsourcing companies are saying it is greener to hand over
our IT to them. Surely that is just fobbing off our carbon footprint on to
somebody else?

Madden: That is a risk, but a lot of the outsourcers and service
providers are going through the same soul searching that many internal IT
departments are going through with energy consumption and carbon emissions, just
on an even bigger scale. Because of their scale they are in a good position to
take steps to reduce energy consumption.

HP is a good example: it is consolidating from some 86 datacentres to six and
what it’s talking about is a radically new data centre design, new cooling
technologies and power consumption technologies and great energy efficiency

It should then be able to fulfil some of those infrastructure and application
needs for customers and do it in a more energy-efficient way than could be done

Our output devices such as printers, faxes and scanners are always on
and have a big environmental impact in terms of their energy and paper. Are
there ways to reduce this impact?

Osborne: There are definitely things that you can do. Within our
organisation, we have implemented a new plan for printing, whereby we charge for
colour pages printed on the volume printers.

What we are aiming to do is to encourage a responsible attitude to the use of
printing. You often see nowadays at the bottom of an email, ‘please consider the
environment before printing this email’.

I sometimes wonder whether we ought to put the reminder on the email
application itself that says ‘please consider the environment before you send
the email’.

But I think there’s an opportunity here to think again about the costs that
go into paper, how paper is used, how it’s recycled, for example. All those
should be part of a responsible print strategy.

All the vendors say they have the most energy-efficient hardware. How
do I distinguish between them? Is there some sort of green quality

Madden: There is an industry body called The Green Grid that is
trying to develop some standards. The group comprises a very interesting mix of
vendors who want to move to this point because their customers are interested in

But at the same time they would all like nothing better than for customers to
choose their servers, so it’s a matter of juggling any new standards with the
need of the vendor community to promulgate their products moving forward.

I think that we are quickly moving towards developing those kinds of
standards ­ a
benchmark that’s going to give consumers at least some objectivity when it comes

to assessing what vendors are telling them in terms of the energy efficiency of

their products.

There is also the Energy Star label for efficient PCs and there is also talk
of an Energy Star label for servers as well.

Are there any tools out there that can be used on an ongoing basis to
measure IT’s carbon footprint and the progress that we’re making as a

Osborne: To some extent it’s a bit of a research task at the moment
to get those metrics. But there are some tools out there and I did notice IBM
making an announcement recently about having a tool for monitoring energy use,
so I think these tools are fast approaching.

Is there a trade-off in terms of going green and reducing power
consumption and the ability to run an efficient, modern IT

Osborne: I gave an example earlier of a small business that is both
efficient and green. It’s a green-focused web hosting service that is running
for profit. I’m sure it’s going to cause some stress, particularly in the
established organisations, but I’m sure it’s possible to do this.

It is just a question of thinking differently about how you plan and manage

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