Tactical Advice

8 Steps to Decrease Energy Use and Save Your IT Budget

Try these simple tips for preserving the environment and your IT budget.
This story appears in the March 2008 issue of BizTech Magazine.
8 Steps to Decrease Energy Use and Save Your IT Budget

CIOs are under pressure to deliver results in less time and with higher returns. More than ever, organizations rely on the CIO’s decisions to help bring about improvement in the company’s bottom line or achieve key business objectives. New green IT solutions make it easier for small businesses to reduce their impact on the environment, save energy and cut costs.

According to research firm Gartner, by 2010 nearly half of the Forbes Global 2000 companies will spend more on energy than on computer hardware, such as servers. It is widely accepted today that as much power is required to cool the hardware as is required for the processing itself. For small to midsize businesses in particular, the rising cost of resources will be a heavy burden. By taking steps to reduce energy costs in the IT department today, businesses can realize substantial energy and cost savings for years to come.

Many businesses, as well as the federal government, are focusing on green IT. “The federal government can save an enormous amount of energy through greater efficiency,” says Kathleen Hogan, director, Climate Protection Partnership Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Here are some simple steps every organization can take to decrease energy use and costs:

•Audit existing PC inventory: The first step toward energy and cost reduction is to re-evaluate your current technology. It is important to determine how many of your PCs need to be “refreshed” or replaced by more energy-efficient PCs. This thorough process will help you uncover inefficiencies, recognize opportunities for improvement and identify potential cost savings.

•Utilize power-management features: According to the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI), the average PC wastes half of the power delivered to it. Businesses can minimize this waste by applying power-management features to desktop computers and monitors. You can find these settings in the Power Options menu in your PC’s Control Panel. By placing inactive equipment in a low-power sleep mode, companies can save up to $30 per monitor and $45 per desktop computer annually in electricity costs, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program. To further save energy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, companies can purchase equipment that meets CSCI’s requirements. CSCI sets aggressive targets for energy-efficient computers and promotes the adoption of such machines and power-management tools worldwide (to learn more, visit www.climatesaverscomputing.org).  

•Turn off PCs nightly: As indicated by the Alliance to Save Energy’s PC Energy Report 2007, as many as 60 percent of employed adults in the United States do not turn their off PCs at night, wasting significant amounts of energy and money. By taking an extra minute in the evening to power down, employees will contribute to the solution and have a daily reminder of the company’s focus on reducing energy consumption.

•Migrate to Energy Star 4.0: The new heightened efficiency requirement of the Energy Star program pushes the envelope of power efficiency. Introduced by the EPA on July 20, 2007, the updated guidelines establish efficiency requirements for all modes of operation, which ensure energy savings when a computer is active and running basic applications as well as when it is on standby. In addition, Energy Star 4.0 requires computers to include an internal power supply that is at least 80 percent efficient. 

•Purchase EPEAT-registered equipment: Follow the lead of government agencies by using the Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to help your company evaluate and select new technology equipment based on their environmental attributes (available online at www.epeat.net). Don’t stop with desktop computers — you can also use other green electronic products, such as notebooks and monitors, to reduce your energy consumption.

•Consolidate servers with virtualization technology: Virtualization software will help your company reduce the number of physical servers it must maintain and create opportunities to streamline many administrative tasks. Between server virtualization and dynamic storage capacity management, IT departments can expect to reduce energy costs by 12 percent to 15 percent.

•Take advantage of blade systems: Blade servers are reported to save up to 36 percent on the energy required to power IT systems. Many manufacturers are offering new highly efficient options and tools to measure, monitor and reduce power consumption in the data center. For example, Hewlett-Packard’s ProLiant Energy Efficient servers can save up to 15 percent compared with older, nonoptimized systems, and HP Power Regulator software (which comes free with the purchase of an HP server or BladeSystem) saves up to 10 percent on energy used to run servers.

•Modernize data-center cooling infrastructure: HP’s Dynamic Smart Cooling technology optimizes data-center cooling capabilities by intelligently interacting with the facilities that support it to recognize “hot spots.” This technology, along with HP’s Thermal Zone Mapping, can result in energy savings of 15 percent to 20 percent.

As a business continues to grow, so will its energy needs. With energy costs on the rise, businesses can minimize budget anxiety by acting now. Implementing tactics such as PC power management and powering down computers nightly can jump-start a company’s focus on energy conservation. Refreshing PCs and improving data-center efficiencies can take time, but these solutions will help small businesses realize maximum energy savings, significantly reduce IT costs and support our collective goal of protecting the environment.  

Patrick Tiernan is vice president for Social and Environmental Responsibility at Hewlett-Packard. HP is a $107.7 billion technology company based in Palo Alto, Calif.

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