Leading the Way to a Greener IT

Paul Mah

I just came back from Frost & Sullivan's TechStrategies Singapore 2009 conference, which was designed to assist CIOs, CTOs and IT directors make sense of emerging technologies and formulate strategies to take their organizations forward. As you can imagine, I was bursting with ideas after one full day of hearing from various analysts and thought leaders at the event. One recurring theme that I kept picking up would be the topic of Green IT.


Indeed, I wrote a couple of articles over the last couple of weeks on topics of reducing energy use without having to purchase new equipment; companies shifting towards purchasing more laptops should also take a look at green battery tips for laptop users to reduce unnecessary battery consumption.


So what are some practical steps that SMBs keen to take a more proactive approach towards green IT should adopt? Below are some of the key ideas -- in no particular order -- that caught my attention as I listened to Andrew Milroy, Industry Director, ICT Group of Frost & Sullivan, as he talked about "Leveraging IT to reduce carbon emissions across the Supply Chain."


Anecdotes and comments below are mine, though do feel free to chip in with your own experiences or ideas by adding a comment to this post.


Reduce the use of consumables


While attending to a small office of an SMB a few years ago, I realized that they have somehow dug an old ink jet multifunction printer out of storage and were using it as their primary fax machine/departmental printer.


IT didn't know about this development, which proved to be a problem as the ink consumption of the department skyrocketed. In fact, it has already increased to the extent that they were using one ink cartridge per day. This added up to more than $300 just for cartridges per month -- horrendously wasteful for a department consisting of just five staffers.


Needless to say, I quickly switched them to a laser multifunctional, which we got on a hire/purchase scheme. This slashed cost to almost a third per month, inclusive of both consumables and the monthly lease. While the actual circumstances might vary somewhat, I believe this scene is something that is enacted in all too many SMBs. I would advise SMBs to go through their consumables with a fine-tooth comb, and shut the door on such flagrant wastage.


Reduce power consumption (sleep times)


We actually explored this idea earlier when I wrote a post on how to reduce your energy use without buying new equipment. It's worth repeating though, if only for the fact that every organization can easily implement this at zero cost.


Purchase energy efficient hardware


One way to drive a culture of energy efficiency would be to make energy consumption a selection criterion when it comes to purchasing new hardware or equipment. Of course, such a move will take some time before results become evident. Still, since SMBs can expect to acquire new equipment as they grow or as replacements for aging hardware, this is definitely an important consideration in the long term.


Make IT department responsible for IT-related energy usage


This idea takes on energy consumption in an unorthodox way, though it makes perfect sense. Outside of manufacturing facilities or say, a theme park, IT is probably the single department that takes up the most electricity in the entire company.


So what better way to keep an eye on electrical consumption than to task the IT department with keeping an eye out for IT-related energy usage? This is a huge topic by itself, and I shall be exploring the various aspects of this idea in a latter blog.

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