Save Your Energy And Switch To The Cloud

In 2007, IT was estimated to be responsible for 2% of the world’s carbon footprint, and this figure is only predicted to rise over time. However, one way businesses are trying to be as energy efficient as possible, is with their IT systems and through adopting cloud computing.

The trend of cloud computing in business has grown rapidly over the last few years, with many beginning to see the benefits of moving their IT functions to remote servers and data centres. While most businesses are likely to see the cloud as a smart way to save money on IT infrastructure, they are also starting to consider that it will save them money on their energy bills as well.

The Energy Forecaster has recently announced the results of its Business Energy Barometer and one of the key findings of the survey shows that 23% of medium businesses in the UK have swapped in-house servers for an external data centre in response to energy price rises, and a further 44% are considering it.

However, businesses need to think carefully about their choice of cloud services provider if they want to ensure they actually are saving energy. While most cloud service providers take energy efficiency very seriously, meaning the data centres are carefully managed and optimised in a way that would be too complicated and time consuming for businesses owners to do themselves, there has been some doubt around how energy efficient data centres really are.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently carried out a study for The Times, which looked at data centres energy usage in more detail. They found that while data centres may be more economical simply due to the huge volume of data they deal with, they actually only use 6 per cent to 12 per cent of the electricity powering their servers to carry out their computations. The rest is used as a form of ‘back-up’ in case of a sudden surge in activity that could affect their processes, and as a result, this energy largely goes to waste.

This is not to say that businesses shouldn’t still consider cloud computing as an option as it does have many benefits. For one thing, the nature of the cloud means businesses are able to choose where their data sits, therefore giving them the option to choose a data centre where renewable or green energy is used. And if the business is part of the CRC Efficiency Scheme, moving to the cloud and choosing a low-carbon data centre will reduce the amount of carbon credits it has to buy to cover its emissions.

If the trend of businesses moving to the cloud continues, the most important thing is that businesses are smart when choosing their cloud service providers to make sure they really are saving energy as well as reducing their carbon footprint. One way of doing this is by using companies such as Mastodon C, who can provide businesses with useful tools that let them compare the carbon emissions and cost of data centres around the world.

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James Constant is managing director of Business Juice and part of Energy Forecaster's panel of energy industry experts. He has worked in the energy industry for over 20 years, including roles at Gazprom and uSwitchforBusiness.