Green IT for the SMB Starts at the Desktop

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A report just published at Ars Technica highlighted the fact that the greening of IT is accelerating despite the current recession. However, as opposed to larger organizations with their racks full of servers, is going green even relevant to most SMBs? My opinion is: Yes, it does matter, though probably not in the way you thought.


One of the key tenets of going green has to do with conserving or reducing energy consumption. Sure, purchasing equipment with fewer heavy metals or recyclable packaging materials will help the environment. However, that involves spending money on new equipment, which might not be what you want to do in the current economic climate. As such, the best way to go green without having to spend would be to conserve energy.


Allow me to highlight a couple of myths involving saving power.


Myth: It's better to leave a PC on than to turn it off during non-work hours.


This myth originates from the fact that switching on a computer for the first time results in a temporary surge of current that is much higher than what is drawn during normal operations. But the increased power surge is only momentary, and a user would have to practically power on and off a PC every few minutes to actually waste more energy than what it would normally consume in normal operation.


I have witnessed office colleagues leaving their PCs on when leaving the office for the day. Their excuse: It takes too long to boot up the next morning. Considering that normal office hours are usually just slightly more than a third of a day, such behaviors can literally triple the amount of energy consumed.


So, just power off your PC when not in use.


Myth: The use of a screen saver reduces energy usage.


A screen saver does not save power. Period. While a black background might result in some reduction in power consumption, screen savers still use monitors, which in turn continue to consume electricity.


And while an LCD monitor does consume less energy than older CRT monitors, the larger display panels consume a fair amount of energy as well. I use an external LCD monitor in tandem with my laptop, and I have made it a habit to switch off my LCD monitor when I'm out to grab a bite, for example.


So there you have it. If you are serious about going green, you can start by debunking the above myths, and making sure that PCs and monitors are powered down when not in use.