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Green Scene

Environmentally Sustainable IT Practices Can Save Money


Jane Dickson
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Columnist: Jane Dickson
March, 2009 Issue

Often stereotyped as expensive and only for the most dedicated environmentalists, “green” products and technologies still have a bit of an image battle to fight. On the bright side, though, as businesses look for cost-cutting strategies in challenging economic times, environmentally sustainable technologies are growing in popularity. Businesses are finding out that adopting certain technologies and behaviors actually reduces operating costs and improves efficiency, bringing the realization that environmental responsibility doesn’t have to come at the expense of profitability. What follows are some of the most cost-effective ways your business can reduce its impact on the environment.

Encourage teleworking. Advancements in technology let workers connect and collaborate from nearly any location. This bodes well for businesses looking to cut back on travel and office space costs.

One way to bolster your business’ remote working program is to adopt a software-based unified communications (UC) solution. UC bolsters remote working programs by combining email, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), instant messaging, and audio, video and Web conferencing into an integrated platform that helps workers in disparate locations communicate more efficiently.

Headquartered in Napa, Clean Power Research has effectively mobilized its workers through the adoption of Microsoft Exchange Online, an enterprise messaging solution. Its mobile workers now benefit from enterprise-class messaging features—such as fast email performance, integrated and shared calendars, and mobile access—without the enterprise-class price tag. Moreover, because Exchange Online is a hosted service, Clean Power didn’t have to add power-hungry servers to its infrastructure to support this upgrade.

Get virtual. Speaking of hungry servers, current energy costs to account for more than 50 percent of an IT budget for a typical data center that houses multiple servers. Further, in most IT environments, server workloads only take advantage of 15 percent of available power. Many businesses run multiple servers for separate programs—some that are used frequently, others less frequently—and squander a considerable amount of available server power.

However, virtualization, a relatively new computing trend in the business world, has the potential to reduce a business’ energy use by up to 90 percent. Virtualization eliminates the traditionally static relationship between hardware and software products, which usually work together in a one-to-one ratio. Through virtualization, a business can run multiple operating systems on one machine, instead of on multiple servers that occupy valuable office space and put big dents in the electric bills.

When considering a virtualization strategy for your business, look for flexible licensing options. Doing so will lower both acquisition and ongoing ownership costs.

Manage power. A recent PC Pro Labs study revealed that 25 percent of workers leave their computers running all weekend, and 65 percent run a screen saver rather than put their computers in sleep mode. While using a screen saver might seem like a decision of little consequence, it’s actually a choice that can have significant ramifications.

Well-managed organizations can save almost $40,000 a year by making proper use of power management settings. Taking advantage of the latest power management tools on a PC can also have a significant and positive impact on the environment. In fact, configuring 10 PCs with the latest power management features has the same impact as taking one car off the road. Used widely, these tools could shave $500 million off the nation’s energy bill and eliminate 3 million tons of global warming pollution.

Think paperless. While it’s likely impossible for your business to entirely discontinue its use of paper, chances are good that you can take some small steps toward reducing your paper trail. For instance, businesses can implement software that moves paper-based form systems to electronic environments. Not only will this cut back on the time and money spent mailing, faxing and printing business documents, it will also make the transfer of documents more secure.

Additionally, new server technology can help businesses reduce their reliance on paper. The latest server solutions offer workflow capabilities that can manage, control and automate document processes. These features bring greater efficiency to these processes and lessen the need for frequent printing.

In a down economy, businesses are overwhelmingly concerned with cutting costs—and rightly so. However, plans to make your business more environmentally responsible don’t need to get bumped off this year’s budget. By adopting environmentally friendly practices and making your IT infrastructure more energy-efficient, you’ll find that going green isn’t just good for the planet, but for the pocketbook as well.

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