Our ‘Energy Efficiency in IT’ clinic

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.

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.

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