Reduce Your Energy Use Without Buying New Equipment

Paul Mah

With an eye on green IT, computer makers are touting new servers and computer hardware that are more energy-efficient than ever. With the downturn still in force, budget that was available earlier in the year might no longer exist, unfortunately.


As an environmentally responsible small and medium business, you might be keen to play your part and reduce the company's overall energy consumption. Are there ways you can achieve this without resorting to new and often costly purchases? Today, I highlight some areas that you can work on.




The simplest way reduce your SMB's energy usage is to start with the desktops and laptops within your organization. Put in a quick visit to each workstation and you can ensure that power management features are properly enabled and configured.


According to the book, "The Greening of IT: How Companies Can Make a Difference for the Environment" by John Lamb, IBM recommends that a setting of 15 minutes of inactivity be used to power-off the monitor for monitor sleep and 30 minutes to go into system sleep. With the barely discernible pause with which modern computers can enter and exit sleep mode, I would personally recommend a more aggressive setting of 5 minutes and 10 minutes for monitor and system sleep, respectively.


(You can download an excerpt from Lamb's book in our Knowledge Network.)




While some production servers have to be left on at all times, this is probably not true of every server in the company. As such, it makes sense to spend some effort exploring ways to switch off non-crucial servers, such as network file servers and printer servers, that serve no useful function at nights or over weekends.

In addition, servers that need to be left on but utilize little computational resources can be consolidated into fewer machines using virtualization. This can be done at no cost using free hypervisor software such as VMware Server; freeing up servers that can now be permanently powered down.


To reduce the number of servers that need to be powered up, another possibility is to use a hosted provider for e-mail and Web if possible. Assuming that the provider is hosting your server using Cloud technology and not on a standard dedicated server, there is much to be gained from the economics of scale in terms of the shared redundant power and computational resources at their data center. Also, offloading redundant DNS servers will also means even less servers to keep switched on.


Air conditioning


Studies have clearly shown that increasing the temperature of the data center by a few degrees is not detrimental to the lifespan or functioning of existing equipment. Any area of concern is really in terms of heat dissipation, which can be addressed by not overcrowding the hardware and with some proper cable management.


As such, rather than maintaining a freezing cold temperature, SMBs with server rooms should consider turning up the thermostat by a few degrees. Because the air conditioning in server rooms is switched on 24 hours a day, even a minor change will have a noticeable effect on overall energy consumption.


For additional ideas towards green computing that might involve some spending, check out my previous blogs that outline some tips for green computing here. In the meantime, feel free to chip in if you have any practical ideas to share on this topic.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 11, 2009 12:07 PM Steve Hennessy Steve Hennessy  says:

For an industry that is supposed to be cutting edge, I am amazed at how conservative IT managers are when it comes to issues of energy efficiency. I suspect that many have mindsets that developed in the old mainframe days, when IBM required computer rooms to sit at 21 degrees C. This must change, and as you suggest it takes very little for an IT manager to make a huge difference. As well as raising the temperature set point in computer rooms, don't install or run dedicated air conditioning in comms rooms (switches and routers produce little heat, and many can operated at fairly high temperatures), and at the desktop level look at reducing the screen brightness setting of LCD monitors (reducing the brightness setting from 100% to 40% can halve the power consumption of some monitors!).

Sep 26, 2009 8:32 AM Jabu Mashika Jabu Mashika  says:

Leon Allan Botha - TI Trading South Africa: we have found that buy removing redundant cables from under floating floors and doing some modifications with regard to airflow, current cooling plants supply temperature has been changed from 14 degrees C to 20 degrees C, with a reduction in operating temperature of the equipment of 16 degrees C.

Sep 28, 2009 9:21 AM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Jabu Mashika

Thanks for the excellent feedback.  I'm sure readers will help the additional tips helpful!


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