Q&A: Ashley Leonard, Verismic, Discusses Improving Business Energy Savings

Ashley Leonard

Verismic Software help ensures organisations of every size around the globe can manage their environments. Its advanced, non-disruptive PC energy management software, Verismic Power Manager, provides demonstrable cost reductions at each level – IT, staff and the overall business. We spoke to Ashley Leonard, CEO of Verismic Software, who had some interesting things to say about businesses reducing the power usage of their PCs and laptops to improve on energy savings and helping keep down their carbon omissions.

Why is saving on energy costs still on the agenda?

Energy consumption in the UK is on the rise, as are energy costs. In 2010 UK consumed 218.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent, 3 per cent higher than in 2009. With simple changes and, with support to manage their environment, businesses can save on the amount of energy consumed with low end-user impact and fast ROI.

What impact does the Government’s renewed effort around its CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme have on organisations?

The CRC Scheme has undergone a number of changes since it was first introduced in response to criticism of complexity and administrative burden. The new draft order seeks to implement the simplifications. The CRC generally applies to organisations with energy bills greater than £500,000 during the qualification year of April 2012 to March 2013. This scheme is credited with increasing organisations’ demands for energy-efficient measures, like PC power management software.

Who is responsible for energy costs associated with a company’s IT assets?

Generally the energy bill is paid by the facilities and maintenance department along with finance, however IT is always involved when implementing PC power management projects. We have found that there is often a disconnect between IT and facilities/finance departments because IT has limited direct benefit from PC power management, but is often required to implement such technology.

How can you make your PC usage more environmentally friendly and more cost effective?

By turning off your computer when you leave work for the evening. A recent Verismic survey showed that 91% of employees cared about energy usage, 49% worried about energy usage at work and 50% of respondents wished to conserve power at work as much as at home. Despite the 91% of employees who cared about energy usage, 24% of employees took no measures to reduce energy usage. Of these, 22% simply forgot to switch off, while 66% cited inconvenience – too long to start in the morning (44%) and locking the screen was quicker (22%).

There is also a common misconception with regards to screen savers and energy conservation because screen savers actually consume more energy than if they were not enabled at all. Once used for screen burning, where static images burnt themselves into the screen, today they are purely used for entertainment purposes, and should not be confused with power management.

How can PC management software help business save money?

PC power management software provides a demonstrable cost reduction at every level – IT, staff and the overall business – through reduced energy consumption. This is typically upwards of £60,000 per year for a 1000 computer organisation. For smaller businesses, even a saving of £60 per PC per annum can help justify alternative IT or business spend around the company.

How is cloud computing helped smaller business adopt PC power management?

Power management software simplifies access to and management of organisations’ IT infrastructure. A smaller company can use a hosted version of power management software, which requires no onsite hardware, no investment in further infrastructure, and a dashboard approach for management and monitoring of savings.

Small businesses see efficiencies almost immediately, deployment is instant, and the day they begin using the cloud-based solution they can begin powering down unused systems, setting automatic shut downs, still running software upgrades and patches by waking whenever required, and reducing power levels on server systems.

The cloud is allowing smaller businesses to reduce server infrastructure and maintenance, but the endpoint is still a power consumer. Verismic launched a cloud version of its PC power management technology in 2010 allowing customers to take advantage of zero infrastructure costs and a SaaS licensing model to make it much simpler to adopt PC power management.

What savings can be achieved through combining power management software on staff terminals with a power management corporate policy?

Corporate policy is important as it sets the priorities for an organisation. With many competing projects within IT, we have found that when management sets the ‘Environment’ as a priority, the organisation will follow. The reality is that PC power management is just an afterthought for most users as they do not personally benefit from reducing their workplace energy usage.

As with many things that require repeated human interaction, continual reinforcement to maintain the effectiveness of this manual process becomes imperative. This is one example of why businesses invest in automated systems. PC power management is a very simple, low impact way to save money and help the environment, but it is only a start. Within Verismic we have a user Education module to remind users to turn-off lights, reduce air-conditioning use etc.

Give me some real life examples of how Verismic’s Power Manager software works for a business

In a real life scenario, the IT department might set up the system so that during business hours of 8 am to 6 pm, PCs and monitors in a retail store remain always on but at back-office locations, monitors turn off after 20 minutes of inactivity and PCs go into standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. At 6pm every night, if there is no activity, PCs go into standby and the monitors turn off.

Employees working after hours can delay the software from powering down. IT typically performs software updates at 11.00pm so a maintenance window can be created to power on all assets for 30 minutes at 11.00pm. The savings data is then recorded and is accessible via the Verismic console where organisations can report on financial savings and environmental benefits.

A global oil and exploration company, Tullow Oil, recently implemented Verismic Power Manager software across all of its 2,800 PCs in use at multiple sites across 15 countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. It is now able to create a baseline of energy consumption and then implement power policies to reduce its IT energy usage. The IT team can generate reports, detailing power usage of individual work stations worldwide, and enforce optimum energy efficiency across the organisation.

Why consider a PC power management system if it could become a standard feature on any new desktop or laptop?

Some form of power management settings already comes standard on most computers, but they do not provide central management and tracking, which means the configuration is very limited. PC insomnia is a common problem with the limited capabilities of most standard features – this is where an application overrides the OS configuration to keep a machine running even when it is not needed.

Our findings in head-to-head customer site comparisons mirror those of the PC power management (PCPM) market conducted by Ovum Research, i.e. “Many IT administrators have inflated expectations about the effectiveness of desktops’ built-in power-saving technologies…The typical savings of 40% or more that can be achieved with PCPM versus built-in power-saving features also applies to PCs managed by Microsoft’s latest System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr). While Microsoft’s ConfigMgr R3 includes improved power management, it falls short of leading PC power management solutions on the market.” – Ovum Research, December 2011.

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Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.