While you were sleeping

Office_block_at_nightTim James, marketing director of SustainableIT, reveals how servers and PCs are costing companies thousands overnight

More often than not, when companies are asked how they reduce their electricity bills or even carbon emissions, they will mention their lighting retrofits, their recycling initiatives, their partnerships with other organisations or their logistics department. The IT department rarely, if ever, features, despite significantly contributing to energy costs.

South Africa aims to introduce carbon taxation in the 2013/14 tax year, and we are already seeing required integrated reporting for JSE-listed companies – all on the back of a 78 per cent increase in energy prices in the past three years. It is crucial that all business areas are on board when it comes to reducing electricity usage.

How PCs are wasting energy

We recently conducted an analysis of one of the top four banks in the country and found that over 90 per cent of their PCs were being left on overnight. In this case, the IT department had been conducting security patching after hours and instructed staff to leave their PCs on for that specific purpose.

It is something we rarely think twice about when we leave the office, but the thousands of PCs that were constantly left on consumed energy with an associated 7,500 MT of CO2 emissions. They also incurred a hefty ZAR 4 million (US$4.8 million) electricity bill per annum as a result, all without any employees at their desks.

The sad part is that the waste is unnecessary.

Simple tooling can shut PCs down and “wake them” remotely without making any changes to network security whatsoever, but a lack of education and understanding about the options available in the PC power management tech space has kept companies from running as efficiently as they should.

IT administrators still mistakenly believe that wake on lan is not “enabled” on their network and that they have no ability to wake devices for patching purposes. Some IT administrators still believe that it is not “good” for PCs to be continually switched on and off, which may have been true in 1980, but is hardly relevant in 2012.

Servers are yet another source of IT electricity waste. IT research and advisory company Gartner has revealed that 12-14 per cent of the world’s servers actually have no use whatsoever. But most companies are hesitant to take action to remove or optimise them, because they are terrified of losing data.

Yet by forcing the server software into the lowest energy-using state while running non-critical functions, such as antivirus checks overnight, you can cut your server-energy use by as much as 12 per cent with no impact on performance.

The reality is that there are tools available that can overcome tech limitations, without any changes to network security or regular operations whatsoever. Unfortunately, we are not using them.

Make eliminating IT waste a priority

There has not been a compelling reason or incentive for chief information officers to reduce their office’s electricity usage or carbon emissions. Chief executive officers are not putting pressure on IT executives to reduce energy and there is no legislation compelling them to do so. The imminent carbon tax and Eskom price hikes, however, may soon place this issue squarely on the agenda of every chief information officer.

By taking responsibility and investigating existing technology that can streamline inefficient operations, companies can reduce their energy bill, “green” their IT departments in a matter of weeks, and then go to bed with peace of mind.


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Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W: www.alaincharles.com

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