Shut off a computer, save a buck

SMB Extra recently asked Darin Stahl, lead analyst for Info-Tech Research Group what non-server-room-related energy savings exist for SMBs.

SMB Extra: What are the most basic things SMBs can do to conserve power?

Darin Stahl: Simply turn things off. You heard it from Mom all the time: ‘Turn off the lights when you leave the room.’ It’s the same sort of stuff. On the weekends, power things down. Turn off photocopiers and printers, and where there is an energy saver or hibernate function, don’t override them so that they’re always on. Every one of us is walking into certain chain grocery stores today and noticing about a third of their lights being turned off. It’s translating into an enormous amount of savings for them and ultimately for us, and it’s not that big a heartache for me as a consumer.

SMBE: Will powering down a PC every night shorten its life?

DS: There was a time back in the day when you never turned your PC because the more time that disk spun on [the faster it wore out]. Now you just shut PCs down and they park themselves. All this hardware is engineered with a mean time between failure so components have a life expectancy based on operating hours. When you power them off you effectively reduce that operating time. In fact in today’s world, PCs can run for 15 years. They get obsoleted by software and other issues but it’s rare that they’re going to fail on their own. Turning them on and off is actually better than letting them go into hibernate mode because in hibernate mode they’re still trickling some electricity.

SMBE: How can SMBs practice more efficient power consumption on the PC side?

DS: They should definitely be thinking about using flat panel displays for use with their PCs, and possibly thin client devices with virtualized desktop, which is easily within reach of most SMBs. VMWare, for example, is giving away some virtualization technology for free that allows you to virtualize the client down to the desktop and manage it more efficiently. And it’s going to cost one 12th as much to power a thin client versus a fully loaded PC. Also, if you think about a blade center, I can buy blade chassis and I can bring more blades online as I need and I can also take those blades out of operation as I don’t need them. I can expand and contract in a very agile way.

SMBE: Besides turning them off, are there any other printer-related money saving opportunities?

DS: Printer fleets and photocopier fleets are primed for savings across the board, not just in paper and toner and supply costs, but in right-sizing those fleets for the correct circumstances. We’ve all seen workplaces where every office has a personal printer. That’s just unnecessary and it’s a significant waste of money, energy and heat generation. Workgroup printers with secure print features… that sort of stuff is standard, state-of-the-art today and it’s a much better footprint to manage and to maintain than lots of little printers across the shop.

SMBE: What about installing an automatic shutoff system for your lighting system? Is this a possibility for most SMBs?

DS: It’s expensive, in that you have to bring in an electrician and you need expertise from the various facilities’ disciplines in order to put it in. You don’t go and rewire lights in an office like you do at home. But I know of server rooms that have put in a simple motion detector on the light switch with a little timer and it works. That stuff will also work in a mailroom, supply room or lunch room – and those little savings will add up. However, if you’re going to change the whole fluorescent grid in a workspace that’s kind of a different issue. It’s still relatively inexpensive, but you’ll need fully qualified technicians to come in and take a look at the grid, and you’ll probably have to talk to your building people. Then there are some safety features. You can’t be turning off the lights that are required for fire exits, etc. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, but it’s not as easy.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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