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Green Tech: How to Plan and Implement Sustainable IT Solutions

Green Tech: How to Plan and Implement Sustainable IT Solutions

by Lawrence Webber

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What if you could save money, run your company more efficiently, and keep customer satisfaction at peak levels-all while reducing waste and making your organization the envy of its industry?

If it sounds too good to be true, consider this: Seemingly "inexpensive" equipment uses more energy, generates more dangerous heat, takes up more space in your office,


What if you could save money, run your company more efficiently, and keep customer satisfaction at peak levels-all while reducing waste and making your organization the envy of its industry?

If it sounds too good to be true, consider this: Seemingly "inexpensive" equipment uses more energy, generates more dangerous heat, takes up more space in your office, and drains your company's operating budget faster than new "green technologies"-IT solutions that protect the environment, solidify your company's image as a progressive and proactive corporate citizen, and (here's the best part) cost much less to operate.

Green Tech presents an array of practical approaches that are almost instant in their impact on the bottom line and on the environment. From better-informed equipment purchases to maintenance, from optimal usage conditions to innovative recycling and disposal options, this book amounts to an open-and-shut business case for making green the center of your evolving IT strategy.

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Green technologies is a term that some business leaders believe espouses

a back-to-nature philosophy and denounces all industry. However,

the reality is much more positive than that. Green Technologies is the reduced

environmental impact from running an Information Technology

(IT) department. Green is just another term for the efficient use of technologies.

(In this case, we are referring primarily to electronic equipment.)

Efficient happens to also coincide with lowest cost and most environmentally

friendly technologies.

“Green” technologies are nothing special. The key is to know what to

look for. Equipment is considered green if it is efficient to operate and easy

to dispose of at the end of its useful life. Green technologies save companies

money, if viewed over their useful life. For example, an “80 Plus”

grade power supply in a desktop computer will save about $30 per year in

reduced energy consumption over a “standard” desktop unit. However,

there may be a one-time additional cost of about $20 at its purchase. In addition,

a computer designed for easy material separation at disposal is

cheaper to discard at the end of its useful life than one built using a higher

level of toxic materials.

There are three primary characteristics of Green Technologies. One or

more of these can apply to an IT device (computer, printer, monitor, keyboard,

scanner, etc.):

▲ It must use energy efficiently. A piece of equipment with a given

level of capabilities can be designed and assembled with an eye toward

low purchase price, easy disposal, or energy efficient operation.

Unfortunately, many companies emphasize the initial purchase

price and not the cost of running the equipment over its

three or five year useful life. Therefore, most manufacturers focus

on providing the lowest unit price.

▲ It uses the right size equipment for the job. Most people would not

use a semitruck instead of an economy class car to drive back and

forth to a distant grocery store. It would consume significantly

more fuel to accomplish the same amount of work. (Ok, some

people would drive the truck no matter what.) The same applies

to IT systems. Often an oversized server is purchased to support

an application either because it is the company standard or it was

available when a server was needed. The larger device consumes

more energy than a properly sized unit, yet provides the same

amount of benefit to the company.

▲ It includes the cost for the proper disposal of unwanted equipment.

Disposal is something rarely considered during a purchase. After

all, it is years away. Yet the cost to properly dispose of a device is

part of the total cost of unit ownership. Companies may be liable

for the cost of landfill cleanup for improper disposal of equipment.

If you want to wrap up the essential messages of this book, it is to use

less energy and to properly dispose of old equipment. That’s it. Now you

can close the book’s cover. You now know the “what.” However, if you

want to know the “how to do this,” then you must read on.

The Energy Problem

If someone asked you the cost of providing electricity to your data center

for a month, do you even know where to find the information? The primary

cause of the electrical usage problem in a company is the disconnect

between the people who are using electricity and the ones who are paying

the bills. Employee behaviors are the result of a company’s reward system.

The people consuming this resource have little incentive to economize;

they simply assume it’s available. The people who are paying the bills lack

the time or technical understanding to debate its appropriate level of use.

Electrical consumption is a combination of what we are operating and

how we operate it. For efficient electrical usage, which devices should we

buy? Imagine shopping for new computers that were plastered with stickers

such as those found on a new refrigerator—stickers that proclaim the

average amount of energy used by that device in a given year. With this information,

IT managers could make intelligent comparisons of the operational

costs between devices with similar capabilities. That day has not yet

arrived. Purchases are typically based on current company technical standards

or lowest price. Energy consumption is not a determining factor.

Much of the electrical energy purchased by an IT organization is consumed

by equipment sitting idle. Think not? When workers go home at

night, the lights are turned off. Are all desktop PCs turned off as well? How

about their monitors and printers? How much electricity is used while

they sit around with no one to use them? Is this a wise use of a company’s

scarce financial resources?

Think about the data center. Rows of servers, disk drives, tape backup

systems all humming along all day, every day. For most companies, the

daytime hours are used in on-line inquiries, while evening hours are used

for batch processing. Yet only certain servers are engaged in all of the processing.

There could be long stretches of time when many others sit, slurping

down electricity, generating heat that must be cooled. This continues

hour after hour, kilowatt after kilowatt. We cannot flip computer switches

on and off throughout the day. It takes time to start a computer and to

warm up a laser printer. There is business value in having these tools always

immediately available.

So what are the solutions? What are some practical actions to address

these issues without hurting customer support?

Sometimes being green and saving energy go hand in hand. Have you

ever replaced someone’s bulky desktop CRT monitor with an LCD monitor?

The LCD monitor’s smaller size frees desk space for other things, so

people are very happy to make the switch. (The image displayed on LCD

monitors “appears” larger than it is, permitting the use of smaller screens.)

As a side note, you just reduced the company’s electrical expenses for that

single device by two-thirds. The same goes with replacing desktop computers

under a three-year refresh cycle. If the new machines are Energy

Star compliant, then they will provide greater performance (being three

years more technically advanced than the unit they replaced), while using

even less electricity. A component of Energy Star compliance is that the

equipment is set to automatically “go to sleep” (a reduced power state

where everything in memory is saved). Of course, if this function is disabled,

then much of the Energy Star benefit is lost.

Think about Power in a Different Way

Think of energy like any other material used to make something, with a

computer as the factory. Just as a factory uses metal, parts, or glue to create

something, computers use energy to create, process, or store data. This

data has value to the company, so electricity should be an identifiable component

of the cost of goods sold. However, since the cost of electricity is

spread like pennies across a wide range of uses, it appears to be too small

to count. Further, the cost of collecting individual device usage statistics

would be unwieldy and too expensive to be practical.

True, each individual cost is small, but the aggregate cost is high. The

problem is the disconnection between the person using the material (electricity)

and the person paying the bill. When you shop for a new car, do

you look at the vehicle’s miles per gallon rating, or just buy the one whose

shape appeals to you the most? If costs are important to you—as they are

in business—then the miles per gallon rating is a key factor. However, if the

fuel is free, then the equipment’s efficiency becomes irrelevant to you.

So, idea number one is to begin thinking about electricity as a material

that is consumed by the data center and the office desktop computers.

Electricity is essential to complete our daily work. Therefore, it is just the

cost of doing business. This is true. However, the issue is not that electricity

is used, but rather how much is wasted.

Think back to the factory example. What if your factory purchased raw

materials to make a product for retail sale, and 75% of the purchased material

was scrapped—thrown away unused? How long could your company

afford this? That means three out of every four components purchased

were waste? That is how much electricity a desktop computer that

is left on all of the time wastes per year. Electricity cannot be stored. It is

consumed by equipment and the wattmeter is running, but no useful work

was done for the money. Are you concerned yet?

How about another example? Have you ever walked into an office that

was packed tight with boxes of files? These containers full of paper took

up floor space (figure what you pay per square foot), restricted work, and

were a fire hazard. What if the paper is moved out, but the files still exist

on data center disk drives. Because managers and clerks insist that these

files must be instantly available online, these disk drives often sit untouched

and spin and spin and spin around the clock, even on holidays.

In addition, they need to be cooled and, then, there is the expense of hardware

maintenance. In addition, there are the back-up tapes created of the

data on these storage drives. How much would you pay per year to store

these files off-line for occasional use? Remember the disconnect between

the people creating the equipment and the ones who pay the bills. The same

holds true with the expense of backup media.

So, you see, there is more to Green Technologies than just flipping off

the power switch. There may be significant opportunities for savings in an

organization—without any impact on customer service. How can you resist

such a promise! Again the topic is easy to understand—use less electricity.

But how!

Meet the Author

Lawrence Webber (Columbus, OH) has over 30 years of IT experience in hardware and software, and is a PMI Certified Project Management Professional. He is a Senior Project Manager at Insight Corporation.

Michael Wallace (Columbus, OH) is the Vice President of Application Engineer at Result Data. He has more than 25 years of experience in the information services field.

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