Practical Tips to Green Computing for the SMB


I was reading a book from IBM Press titled "The Greening of IT" (Safari Books Online) which arrived last week. Even as companies wake up to the idea of environmental responsibility, author John Lamb pointed to market research by IDC showing that by 2010, every $1 spent on computer hardware, a staggering 70 cents will be spent on power and cooling. This will increase by 2012 to $1 on power and cooling for every $1 spent on hardware.


While the bulk of the book focuses on the data center environment or large-scale infrastructure scenarios, Lamb provided tips to conserve electricity that even small and medium businesses will benefit from. To quote from the book, "Green IT is more than data center -- your laptop is included."


I'll elaborate on some of Lamb's ideas here.


Disable screensavers


Invented at the time of the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors, screensavers are useful for preserving the lifespan of the monitor by preventing phosphor burnout, hence expanding their usable lifespan. While it was possible then to argue that screensavers contribute towards protecting the earth in that sense, screensavers on modern LCD displays are little more than cute animations.


Indeed, LCD screens consume the same amount of energy when running these screensavers. As such, it makes sense to disable screensavers and just remember to switch off your LCD display when going for lunch, or even when going for a meeting.


And yes, if your SMB is still using CRT monitors, it's time to switch to LCD ones, should the opportunity arises. Prices have plummeted in the last couple of years, and LCDs certainly consume a lot less power than equivalent-sized CRTs.


Power off workstations at the end of the work day


A typical day for most office workers consists of some 8 to 9 working hours in front of the computer. You will be surprised at the number of staffers I have encountered who leave their computers on at the end of the work day.


Reasons range from typical ones stemming from laziness such as "Oh, it takes a few minutes to boot up in the morning" to inexplicable excuses like "There was a problem when booting up the other time, so I have been leaving it on for the last two months instead."


Not only does leaving a workstation on 24/7 noticeably shorten the lifespan of the various components, the electricity consumption --- at up to three times more -- is horrendous. If necessary, CIOs or IT departments should make it a company policy that workstations must be switched off at the end of the work day.


Switch to laptops


Another way to lower electrical consumption that came to my mind when writing this blog would be to migrate to laptops instead of purchasing full-fledged desktops during the next upgrade cycle. While departments such as engineering or design will continue to require the more powerful capabilities inherent to higher-end desktops, other departments such as sales and human resource are unlikely to have the same requirements.


The additional advantage of acquiring laptops would also be the increased ease with which certain teleworking practices can be implemented.




At the simplest level, green computing is no rocket science and certainly does not require doling out large amount of cash in terms of up-front investment. As detailed above, proactive steps for a green computing merely takes a little effort, yet the lowered energy consumption typically translates into immediate savings.