We took our clinic on the road to the Courtyard in Hereford on Monday in the name of h.Energy week – less Embarrassing Bodies, more Embarrassing Hardware. We present below a gallop through the principles of energy conservation in IT, as presented at the clinic.
Energy Efficiency... Consider the Whole
Energy efficiency in IT is about a lot more than switching off the computer at the end of the day.
Putting a computer on your desk requires raw materials (including some rare metals), power and transport. Before you even switch on your new computer, it has already been responsible for the consumption of an enormous amount of energy.
There's little, if anything, you can do about your computer's journey to your desk, but once it arrives there's much you can do to minimise how much energy it uses every day, and how long it lasts.
The advice we give on minimising IT's power consumption within your office depends on the type of systems you run, and what you do with them. Let's look at a few scenarios...
Do you really need that new computer? If you're planning to purchase new kit, think about what needs you want it to meet and whether there might be another way of achieving the same end. For instance, if your machines are running low on memory it's a simple matter to buy and fit new memory. Or, it might be that a more efficient method of document storage and back-up can be found, to avoid filling your computer's memory. It's possible your machine is running a very heavy operating system (Windows installs are typically very demanding on a machine's resources), so replacing that with a light install such as Ubuntu or Linux's Puppy might do the trick.
Energy Used Creating a New Computer A handful of microchips can have as much embodied energy as a car. You need 800 kilograms of fuel to produce one kilogram of microchips, compared to overall, 12 kilograms of fuel to produce one kilogram of computer. Extending and prolonging effective use of older equipment helps reduce costs of disposal, replacement and all the related recycling and manufacturing environmental demands.
Can your machine use less power? A computer's power use is dictated by a number of things. Keeping your machine clean (take the back off and hoover out the dust once in a while) and in a well-ventilated spot are simple measures that will reduce how hard it has to work to function and keep cool. Computer's fans are responsible for a lot of the energy taken. Computers come with power management options. You can set both your screen and your machine to go after a period of inactivity that you stipulate. If you're going to be out of the office for any length of time and won't need remote access to your machines in that time, hibernate, suspend or turn them off altogether. Contrary to urban myth, turning a computer off and then back on again a while later doesn't use more energy than leaving it on for indefinite periods of time. If you do need remote access to information, consider using an online- (cloud-) based service such as Dropbox, which maximises its energy use as its servers are accessed by huge numbers of users all the time. This removes the need for lots of individual machines to be on but idle.
How Much Does PC Cost to Power? (Watts x Hours Used)/1000 x Cost per Kwt-hour = Total Cost 200W PC powered on all year round: £210.24pa PC powered on 8am til 6pm 5 days per week: £62.40pa PC set to auto standby (75% on 8am-6pm): £49.25pa Set PC to auto-suspend & without thinking save > £160.80pa
Virtual Machines Virtualisation is a gift for reducing power consumption. In essence, virtualisation is powerful computers running software that allows them to pretend to be lots of little ones. As with using online services, this means that a smaller number of more powerful machines do the work of a much larger number of small machines, with an overall power saving. This can also be a solution to buying another computer, but it is all dependent on what your computers need to do.
Server utilization: The goal for optimum use of a server is less than 70% average load which means you have capacity to deal with spikes of load but you are not wasting processing power and energy use by being idle too often. Virtualization: allows you to use servers even more efficiently and tightly, making it easier to take wasted capacity out of service and pull more in when it is needed. No need for servers to be humming away at 200W-500W (£200-£500+pa) busy doing nothing.
Data Centres There are some shocking statistics about IT's power consumption, not least this one:
10% of UK carbon emissions are generated by IT, and of that 25% comes from data centres.
This is why green hosting matters. OpenSure's servers are in the UK's only data centre that is 100% powered by renewable energy. By maximising use of your existing hardware, setting your power-management options, taking advantage of cloud-based services and switching to green hosting, you'll be making great strides in managing your IT in an energy-efficient way. It should also have the knock-on of saving you money for both kit and bills, and providing you with top-quality services. Efficiency should always be an improvement and a way forward, not deprivation by another name.
Recycling Sometimes computer kit does come to the end of its life. If it can't be cannibalised, passed on to someone else or donated to a computer kit-collecting charity, the only option is responsible recycling. Some manufacturers and retail chains such as PC World offer recycling schemes, otherwise there are numerous companies offering this service. Make sure you've taken specialist advice about destroying the data on your PC.