Going Green the IT Way

You don't need to undergo a costly overhaul to reduce your company's carbon footprint. You can start by keeping the server room door shut!
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that your business is running at or near peak efficiency, your current business model is on or above target, and the organization is running smoothly. Even in this perfect scenario, the need to continue to push for improvements will persist and when it comes to IT, regardless of how small or insignificant a possible enhancement may seem, the effects are going to be compounded many times over.

So let’s take a look at a few easy ways for us IT professionals to push for a greener, more energy efficient work place.

For most businesses there are many changes their IT department can easily make to move in a more efficient, or green, direction. Saving energy on electricity-guzzling items such as monitors, computers, office lighting, and server farms is easy and always a cost effective method of reducing that dreaded carbon signature.

The savings on the energy costs alone stack up quickly, which can be supplemented possible incentives, environmental conservation, positive image, and studies show that environmentally friendly businesses also raise employee retention and productivity rates.

Office Space

Let’s start with implementing an effective and easy-to-establish, company wide policy. First have all employees configure their monitors to turn off after 20 minutes of inactivity, configure the hard drives to turn off after 30 minutes of inactivity, and the desktop computers or laptops to go into standby or sleep mode after 70 minutes of inactivity (this gives you 10 whole minutes to get back from lunch or that hour-long meeting).

Next, purchase Smart Plug Strips for devices such as printers, monitors, calculators, or typewriters that do not need to have power reach them unless they are being used. These plug-strips cost about $10 - $20 each and they can reduce the carbon output of your organization by up to 290 pounds each per year. Multiply that by each office or cubicle and you can get an idea of how much pollution and energy your business will reduce by this simple investment.

Finally, install motion detecting light switches wherever possible. Replacing wall switches with automatic motion detectors is an extremely effective way to cut pollution and energy costs from indoor lighting.

This common sense approach to dealing with energy costs has other added benefits as well such as sheer convenience and sleek appearance to employees, customers and other visitors. Keeping the lights off when they’re not in use can also extend the life of the bulb and reduce unwanted heat while keeping an average of 265 pounds of carbon per office out of the air each year.

The Datacenter

Now that we took care of the low hanging fruit in our offices, let’s see what we can do in the computer room.

While saving energy and reducing cost for the server farms, computer racks and other IT related apparatus may not be as effortless as clicking a button or even swapping out a light switch, it can be a enormous place to cut down on your overall carbon signature. And for anyone who didn't see the "Al Gore documentary," this is a good thing.

Since the top two issues for server farm efficiency are power management and cooling, let’s start with the HVAC unit that you have keeping temperatures cool. Typically these are huge, redundant, energy-wasting beasts. The good news is these beasts can be tamed. So how do we improve cooling efficiency without compromising reliability?

We start by setting the server room thermostat to a comfortable 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 degrees for all you folks measuring in Celsius. The recommended operating range for most business class servers is 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20° to 30°C) so there are some considerations to keeping the temperature setting at or near the environmental threshold due to increased temperatures in the server room during business hours. Installing a thermostat with a built in timer to allow for higher temperature settings during off-peak hours when servers are not likely to overheat would be the safest approach.

Also, having a rigorous maintenance schedule for the HVAC unit responsible for the server room space is also critical. These system filters, duct work and monitoring systems should be kept in perfect working order at all times. And please, remember to keep the server room doors shut!

Next are your servers themselves. All of the top processor manufacturers including Intel, AMD, IBM and Sun Microsystems, are now focusing much of their resources into designing and building new energy efficient processors and all are sponsors of the initiative known as The Green Grid, a consortium of technology companies focused on energy efficient datacenter power management.

Most businesses cannot afford to go around upgrading their servers for the sake of preventing a few hundred pounds of carbon from escaping into the atmosphere each year. This method of conservation, however, should be at the top of your list when phasing out obsolete equipment.

And while we’re speaking of obsolete equipment, every one of those computers, laptops, servers and even that Blackberry, PDA and mobile phone in your pocket contains heavy metals including lead and mercury which damage both the environment and human health. These devices continue to multiply exponentially with an estimated 130,000 computers packed into landfills each day with poisons that seep into our waterways and then into plants, fish and animals. And in case no one is paying attention, that’s the stuff we all need to live. You can help by following the guidelines set forth by our friends at the Environmental Protection Agency.

In Closing

If saving the world from climate change and toxins isn’t incentive enough, then talk to your superiors about the one thing that corporations can relate to, and that’s money.

Taking steps to conserve energy should be appealing enough to the corporate kings for the simple fact that you will not only appeal to your increasingly eco-savvy customer base and help your business to gear up for changes in the regulatory wind, but you’ll also save money in the present. You can also mention that taking diligent measures now is sure to keep environmental and corporate watchdogs, various consumers groups and the bloodthirsty media from centering your business in their crosshairs.

You’ve all heard it before and the truth is that if we all did our part to help conserve energy and reduce pollution, we would all be better off in a multitude of ways. Just for starters, we would see reduced energy costs and a cleaner and healthier place to live and work for all.

So do your part, unplug those monitors or plug them into Smart Strips, turn off those office lights or install Smart Switches and remember... keep the server room door shut!

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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