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Is ‘green IT’ living up to the hype?

Green IT

Author: MJ Shoer

Going green is everywhere. Whether it’s recycling at home or the office, the cars we drive or the products we purchase, we all know there is a lot of momentum behind going green. Even the new fire station just opened in Portsmouth is being praised for its green construction, which will save taxpayers money not just today, but throughout the station’s lifespan.

With all the awareness and sensitivity to green initiatives around us, it only stands to reason that we should occasionally ask ourselves if we are really improving things when trying to be more green. I think it’s clear to most people that it’s the right thing to do, but from a business sense, in addition to doing the right thing, will it also save our businesses money? I believe the answer is yes. And in the world of IT, I also think it’s relatively straight-forward to monetize green initiatives as cost-saving measures, as well.

Especially as we move into the warmth of summer, one of the obvious areas is cooling. Computer technology generates a lot of heat, from the computer itself, the monitor and all the peripheral devices that drive a present-day office network. The more gear, the more heat. The more heat, the more cooling required. It’s fairly simple in this respect. While at the individual desk this may not seem substantive, if your company runs multiple servers and associated networking devices, it may generate significant cooling requirements. This translates into power costs, not to mention maintenance of the cooling capacity, which may be significant.

I have seen several examples where power consumption may be reduced by as much as 30 percent by leveraging more power-efficient technology and even by simply putting computers to sleep when not in active use and turning off printers and monitors outside of business hours. Newer equipment has sophisticated power management capabilities that some manufacturers state are up to 80 percent more efficient. With even a few computers, an 80 percent gain in efficiency may translate into hard savings on monthly electric bills.

However, all this said, the real opportunity for IT to be more green starts with the manufacturing of the computer equipment and its ultimate disposal. Improvements in the manufacturing processes probably hold the most potential for improving the sustainability of technology hardware and this responsibility rests with the manufacturers themselves. That does not mean we, as users of these technologies, should not do what we can to help in the process. When we are ready to dispose of computers, they should never go into the office trash. Computer equipment needs to be properly recycled as there is a very large industry growing around providing these services. It’s not difficult to find responsible companies that will come and pick up your old technology and repurpose it for good or properly recycle it. Every computer has hazardous metals and chemicals, and these need to be properly disposed of. This, too, is part of being greener.

There are many rapidly maturing technologies that will have a positive green impact on business. The adoption of more online, or cloud, technologies has the potential to allow businesses that are able to leverage these to be more green with their IT footprint. Paperless technologies also improve a company’s green footprint as it allows a business to require less space for records storage as well as generate significantly less paper and printer waste.

Remote, mobile and telecommunication technologies all have a positive impact considering the reduction in space, power and emissions that each is able to deliver. Some of these have direct benefit to the business and some to the employee, but the net gain in terms of lower costs and less waste transcend both business and individual. Businesses that embrace these technologies also report gains in productivity and quality that translate to direct profits.

There is no shortage of opinions that challenge the benefits of green IT, however, I do believe green IT makes sense. I would expect to see some tangible cost savings for even the smallest offices. Globally, green IT makes even more sense as the potential to reduce environmental impact of our increasing use of technology is just good business, not to mention good stewardship of our environment.


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