More Tips to Green Computing for the SMB


In an earlier blog post, I mentioned how a new book from John Lamb titled "The Greening of IT" (Safari Books Online) prompted me to think more about the idea of green IT for SMBs. With more than five million small and medium businesses in the United States alone as of 2004, even slight changes in the habits of employers can have a cumulative effect towards greater environmental responsibility.


Today, I want to elaborate on some of the excellent ideas mentioned by Lamb in the second chapter, "The Basics of Green IT." While most of the strategies below are more pertinent to the server room, I believe these to be highly relevant for the small and medium businesses as well.


Use a high-efficiency Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)


According to Lamb, efficiency losses in Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) used in a typical datacenter represents between 5 percent to 12 percent of all energy consumed in them. Generally speaking, older UPS -- such as those made in the '80s and '90s -- are not as power-efficient as newer ones.


It might make sense to have these round-the-clock appliances replaced with units that are more power-efficient. Simply swapping an older UPS with 80 percent efficiency for one that's getting 95 percent power efficiency can reap tremendous gains in the long run.


Power off monitors for servers


I have actually seen a server room cluttered with 10 or more units of old, soon-to-be-decommissioned CRT monitors, with each tethered to a different server by the previous system administrators for convenience. The sheer clutter aside, a tremendous amount of energy could have been saved in a year by the simple act of powering off all the monitors. Which also begs the question: who is going to monitor the data in the middle of the night anyway?


Moving forward, I would like to note that it makes more sense to invest in a mid-range KVM and run it off a single display. In fact, I have successfully persuaded management to purchase a network enabled KVM that allows monitoring via my own workstation, as well as over the Internet via a VPN connection.


What of the single display in the server room? Well, I left that switched off, too.


Leverage virtualization


SMBs that have yet to hop onto the virtualization bandwagon should seriously consider taking this route. The idea is to maximize the overall operational load of a server machine that is going to run regardless of whether it gets any work or not.


This advice is relevant for any organization running two or more servers, and is applicable for an SMB that is maintaining a server room or dedicated servers co-located at a data center.


While not for every SMB, a solution such as VMware's vSphere is able to run more virtual machines on fewer physical machines during the night, powering down redundant machines within the "cloud" of servers. Actual implementation cost will vary by organization, though VMware does have a Small Business offering specifically geared toward SMBs.