How green is your IT?


The Green IT movement, once a headline-grabber, isn’t getting the focus it used to these days. There are plenty of good reasons to use information technologies that reduce your company’s environmental footprint. Aside from the fact that they’re good for the planet, energy savings are also good for the bottom line. Here are six approaches to technology that will help save the planet (and save your company money).

Data centre virtualization. Virtualization isn’t a new concept; it dates back to the mainframe days. But it got a breath of new life in the client-server and n-tier computing environments in the last few years. Tying a specific compute load to a specific server reduces efficiency because the server rarely uses more than a fraction of its capacity. Creating virtual machine images — combinations of processing power, operating system and applications — that run many-to-a-machine on physical hardware increase the efficiency of servers and allow you to retire the unnecessary ones.

Virtual desktop infrastructure. While you’re virtualizing your data centre, look into moving the end-user compute load into a virtual environment, too. Thin- and zero-client computers are simply interfaces to a server, where the actual compute load is handled. Without wattage-hungry features like hard drives and high-performance graphics cards, thin clients don’t draw as much power as full-fledged desktops and laptops. You’ve also got more control over the end-point; the computer’s “desktop” is a virtual image stored centrally, making it easier to roll out upgrades and updates.

Solid state storage. If you compare spinning hard disk drives to solid state storage, there are pros and cons to each. But on the environmental side, the battles go to solid state. There are no moving parts, so power consumption is lower (by about half, according to That also means no heat generated, so cooling is more efficient. Solid state drives are also faster. They’re more expensive than spinners on a per-gigabyte basis, but that’s changing.

Go LED. There’s no excuse for the old CRT monitors that are kicking around some businesses with flat-screen LCDs being so affordable. But not all LCDs are created equal. Those that use an LED array for backlighting instead of a cold cathode fluorescent lamp draw less power, and LEDs don’t contain the mercury that fluorescents lamps do.

Telecommuting. If the nature of your business allows it, telecommuting can have a powerful environmental impact in many ways. Business offices can be smaller, with fewer seats drawing less power; carbon-spewing commutes are reduced. Teleconferencing technologies have come down in price, so a virtual presence at meetings when necessary is possible. And all that space and power savings pay off in dollars and cents, too.

Longer life. Most of the environmental impact of any technology comes from its manufacture and its disposal. So the greenest technology purchase you make may be the one you don’t. Still, there’s a balance to be struck. At some point, the environmental impact of old, power-sucking desktops and monitors outweighs the environmental impact of building a new machine and disposing of the old one.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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