Greening your IT systems

Did you know that computers and aeroplanes are emitting similar levels of green house gasses? DAVID MARKUS

David Markus Combo

By David Markus

The aviation industry is estimated to be creating 2% of the worlds carbon output, as are our computers. Many of us will be familiar with the option to pay our carbon offsets on a per-flight basis, but most of us are not paying carbon offsets for our computers quite yet.

According to a study published by Gartner group in February 2008, our PCs and monitors are contributing 39% of the IT CO2 emissions, while servers are contributing 23% – the rest of the CO2 from IT comes from our networks, telecoms and printers.

Studies in the US suggest that it takes just three trees planted each year to offset a PC’s contribution based on 10 hours a day of effective use. Over the four year life of a PC, that is 12 new trees. I am not suggesting that tree planting is the best carbon offset solution, but it is just nicely quantifiable for this example.

The question is; how can we move to reduce this carbon footprint over the next few years given that our businesses and homes are full of computer technology?

My answer is in consolidation of equipment and reduction in power demands of our IT equipment. Current trends – especially in small business – are to have one server per application or database. Over the next few years we need to get better at running our entire business off one server platform and that platform needs to become more energy efficient.

The next step in this server virtualisation is to remove servers from small business altogether. Through virtualisation of servers, it is now becoming possible for a hosting organisation to host multiple organisations’ servers virtually on one hardware platform, thus increasing the efficiency and utilisation of processors, data storage and power facilities.

As our broadband services increase in speed, it will become possible for most organisations to simply access servers ”by the slice” across the web at a fraction of the cost of owning and maintaining the hardware themselves and at a fraction of the environmental impact.

In the mean time, the simplest thing we can do is turn our PCs off as we go home!

If you have other IT energy saving ideas please let me know using the form below. I would love to put together a list of your ideas for a future article.


David Markus is the founder of Melbourne’s IT services company Combo. His focus is on big picture thinking to create value in IT systems for the SME sector.

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Stefan Carey writes: Get the IT depart to set PCs up so they automatically switch off at 10pm: then you won’t have to fight the lazy ones. Get the IT department to set up every PC with energy saving settings on; f you leave it to the user it hardly ever gets done.

Rod Sheppard writes: Not turning a computer (indeed most everything else too!) off at the wall means it stays in standby mode, or sleep-mode at best. To be off it’s gotta be 100% off! Here’s an easy, simple and cheap solution.




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