Five tips for low-energy business computing

Energy use is rapidly becoming a major concern for business. Energy saving measures can be implemented with a minimum of cost and disruption to normal operation.


First, the datacentre dialled back its power consumption. Now it is the front office's turn.

Concerned about soaring energy costs, IT organisations have begun to make significant changes to the way their datacentres are powered and cooled. But many IT departments have not yet looked at saving energy by targeting the rest of the company's IT equipment.

That is short sighted, say IT organisations that have been down this road. The reason, datacentres may use more power per square foot, but as a percentage of total power consumption, it’s office equipment that is the big kahuna.

"Office equipment has become more highly featured and powerful than ever before, but there's an energy cost to that," says Katherine Kaplan, who manages the US Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star consumer electronics and IT initiatives.

"If you look at overall power consumption, you're seeing almost double for computers and monitors than for datacentres," says Jon Weisblatt, senior product manager, power and cooling initiative at Dell.

Verizon Wireless is one company that is saving plenty of green by going green. Earlier this year, the wireless carrier deployed NightWatchman power management software from 1E that puts desktop computers and monitors in offices, stores and call centres into power saving mode after a period of inactivity, overriding any personal settings. Another 1E product, SMSWakeup, automatically "wakes up" those machines after hours to deliver patches and updates, shutting them down again when the process is complete. "It saved us [money] just turning computers on and off on demand," says CIO Ajay Waghray.

But Waghray didn't stop there. He also replaced 7,000 PCs with power-sipping Sun Ray thin clients from Sun Microsystems in Verizon's call centres and migrated to LCD monitors company wide (a process that is still ongoing). Replacing non managed PCs in 10 call centres with 7,000 managed thin clients cut energy use for that equipment by 30%, says Waghray. He estimates that the two initiatives combined have cut front office power consumption by $900,000 (£440,000) a year.

To Waghray, going green is good business. The projects were good for customer service, off hours patching and the more reliable thin clients improved uptime and reduced trouble ticket volumes by 50%. "Just do business to make things more efficient, simple and customer focused, and green becomes a very important factor," he says.

There were an estimated 900m desktops in use worldwide in 2006, according to IDC. Even if all of those units were Energy Star 2006 compliant, they would still consume 426bn kWh of power annually.

If all of that equipment met the 2007 Energy Star 4.0 specification, it would cut power consumption by 27% over 2006 Energy Star levels, according to Marla Sanchez, principal research associate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. That would save 115bn kWh, enough to power all of Switzerland for nearly two years, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 178bn lbs.

Do your part to reduce some of those emissions, and save your own company some dough, by following our five tips on saving resources and increasing the efficiency of front-office equipment.

"Recommended For You"

Fujitsu aims green IT consulting at office, data centre CEBIT: Fujitsu Siemens promises green PC breakthrough