At Solid Systems, we always say that we’re human, not robots. And part of being human is contributing to the world around you.
The world is changing. You may have noticed it in the shift of weather patterns, or in the increase in natural disasters occurring on an annual basis. You may have noticed it in the increased power demands, which countries like South Africa are struggling to keep up with thanks to a lack of natural resources (among a number of other, less environmentally related challenges).
More than ever before, people and companies are realising the need to decrease their carbon footprints, to use less electricity and water, and produce less waste. Take Microsoft, for example, with their commitment to becoming carbon negative, water positive and zero waste by 2030. They are just one business, but others are swiftly following suit.
There is a trend towards what is known as green computing, and it’s one that companies around the world, both big and small, can contribute towards.
What Is Green Computing?
Green computing, which is also sometimes referred to as Green IT, is all about reducing the carbon footprint involved in producing, using and disposing of technology. While the phrase has been gaining popularity over the past few years, with bigger technology companies like Dell and Microsoft announcing commitments to reduce their environmental impact, it has actually been in circulation since 1992. This was when the US Environmental Protection Agency launched its Energy Star program, which encouraged companies who were creating hardware to focus on energy efficiency.
Why Is Green Computing Important For Businesses?
While most green computing initiatives take place in the manufacture of software and technologies, businesses that use this tech also have a large role to play.
As the world around us has become more digital, so companies have been making more use of newer and more advanced technologies. But the more technologies a business adopts, the bigger their carbon footprint becomes.
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was little need for every one of your humans to have their own computers – they could easily operate without them, or there would be a shared work computer that they could use as needed. Then the millennium hit, and not only did every employee need to have a computer at their desk, they needed to have one at home as well. Fast forward to today, when it’s perfectly normal for a person to have multiple work and home devices, from PCs and laptops, to smart phones and desktops, to two or three screens, numerous headsets and earphones, at least one mouse and keyboard, but usually more packed away in a cupboard somewhere… The list of technologies that one person has access to is endless. And each device draws differing amounts of power depending on how old they are and how efficiently they work. When you start wrapping your head around it, it’s easy to see why South Africa, as a third-world country, seems to be struggling with its energy consumption.
Forward-thinking businesses are already seeing the benefit in reducing their energy consumption, especially in South Africa, where loadshedding poses a significant threat to a company’s operations. They need to find ways to draw less electricity, or supplement their consumption through other means like solar panels and wind energy. But even outside of South Africa, businesses around the world are finding that more efficient energy consumption can lead to lower utility bills, while investing in green devices can lead to lower overheads over a longer period of time.
What Are The Challenges In To Going Green?
While more and more businesses are trying to embrace green computing, they are finding that there are numerous challenges to implementing green IT projects. Let’s take a look at just a few green computing challenges that companies face:
1. Change Is Never Easy
It is a lot easier to accept the way that things already are, than it is to make meaningful change across your business. There are plenty of companies that have realised the need to embrace green computing strategies, but are not ready to take the next step of putting them in place. Change is unpredictable – as much as you can discuss strategies, do your research and put steps in place for measuring your success, there is still risk in making changes to the way that your business operates. And that leads to inertia on the part of companies around the world in making the shift to green computing solutions.
2. Energy Alternatives Are Costly
Supplementing your energy consumption with eco-friendly alternatives like solar, water and wind power is not a simple process, and requires large downpayments. While these solutions may be better for your business in the long run, it can be difficult to justify the expense when you can only expect to see returns on the investment months or years down the line.
3. So Is Replacing Inefficient Components
In the same way that alternative energy sources are expensive, so is investing in more energy efficient technology. This is especially the case if you’re dealing with devices and hardware components that don’t necessarily need to be replaced yet. They are still functional, are still operating effectively, but are simply drawing more power than is compatible with a green computing model. At what point do you bite the bullet and replace them with more energy efficient alternatives? Do you wait for your hardware to fail, or do you put together a budget for replacing less efficient components over a longer period of time?
4. Green IT Solutions Are Not The Norm Yet
While businesses are certainly making the switch to more energy efficient solutions and are embracing the concept of Green IT, it is still not the most common practice. This means that finding vendors and suppliers who prioritise green computing can be difficult, and their services will often come at a premium because of it. Once green IT becomes normalised, it will become easier to source eco-friendly technologies. But for the moment, committing to a green computing strategy means accepting the fact that it will be more challenging to source technologies and components that meet your environmentally minded needs.
5. Cloud Computing Can Use More Energy
We often talk about the many benefits of cloud computing – the flexibility and affordability that it affords to businesses, just as two examples. But the data centres that are used for cloud computing are significantly contributing towards energy usage across the globe, using up to 200 times more energy than your average office building. And with the rise of cloud computing, more and more data centres are needed to meet the burgeoning demand on resources. This makes the use of cloud solutions a serious consideration for businesses looking at implementing green computing strategies.
6. We’ve Developed Bad Habits
Over the years, we’ve become so used to doing things a certain way that we’ve developed habits that aren’t necessarily good for the environment. Leaving a computer on overnight, for example, may save you time in starting up the next morning, but it uses more electricity than is necessary. And the same is true for copiers, printers and screens. On top of that, when our electronics die, we have a tendency to keep them, ‘just in case’, or else to just chuck them in the bin. How many keyboards do you have in storage? How many headsets and mice? These should be recycled responsibly or repurposed, rather than simply sitting in landfills or storage cupboards.
How Can You Put A Green Computing Strategy In Place?
Just because there are challenges to putting a green computing strategy in place, doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps that your business can already be taking to address the challenges and reduce your environmental impact. Let’s look at a few components of green computing that should be included in your strategy, and which you can prioritise and start implementing today:
1. Adopt Green IT As Part Of Your Company Culture
Company culture is such an important part of working in today’s world. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors and makes your team members feel like they are working towards something meaningful, rather than just doing a job.
By making sure that the environment is factored into your company culture, that your teams can connect to your vision for the future and embrace eco-friendly solutions, the adoption of green computing throughout your company will increase. This will make it far easier to implement green IT solutions, and will encourage your humans to change their behaviours in ways that positively impact the environment.
2. Switch To Energy Efficient Devices
Making the switch to green IT doesn’t have to happen all at once. As devices need to be replaced, you can make energy efficiency and green computing a factor in the hardware that you replace it with. You can also incorporate green IT solutions in your technology plan, ensuring that you are becoming more energy efficient and environmentally conscious over time while still maintaining a reasonable monthly budget.
3. Use Smart Technology To Manage Your Power Usage
One of the biggest advances in technologies over the past decade has been the Internet of Things, or IoT. More and more devices are becoming smart – from TVs, to printers, to fridges and vacuum cleaners. And while these smart devices often make our lives a bit easier, there is one huge benefit that they hold in terms of green computing. They allow you to more carefully regulate your energy consumption.
With the right smart technology, you can intricately manage how much electricity you are generating from alternate sources like solar panels, can carefully monitor how much power is being used across your office (or home office), and can make adjustments to things like air conditioning, put devices to sleep, turn off unnecessary screens and lighting, and so much more.
4. Recycle And Dispose Of Devices Responsibly
Just because a device is no longer meeting your needs, does not mean that it can’t be fixed or repurposed. Find a recycling centre near your offices and arrange to dispose of devices responsibly. They will also be in the best position to advise on repurposing programs that may be running in your area, or charities who may be able to use your outdated tech, repair devices for distribution to others in need, or repurpose the components for other projects.
5. Optimise Your Use Of Cloud Services And Resources
Because data centres have such high energy needs, ensuring that you are making the best possible use of your cloud facilities is critical to any green computing strategy. This could mean making use of public cloud environments, where resources are shared between multiple companies, rather than private cloud facilities where a portion of the data centre is restricted to only your usage. It could also mean adjusting resources like CPU and memory according to your needs – a solution which is both cost effective and easy to manage, since cloud solutions allow for optimum flexibility and upgrading or downgrading resources with the click of a button.
6. Use Alternative Energy Solutions
While alternative energy solutions can be expensive, they are a good investment for any business to make. Making use of solar, wind or water power can supplement your incoming energy, leading to lowered utility bills, and more reliable long-term power generation. The more you are able to make use of environmentally friend energy solutions, the less pressure you are putting on the power-grid in general, which means that you are also positively contributing towards your city’s energy consumption.
7. Embrace A Hybrid Work Environment
While green computing largely looks at environmentally friendly technologies, there are other factors that contribute towards your business’ carbon footprint as well. Take, for example, the commutes that your humans need to take on a daily basis to reach your offices. Or the prevalence of multiple machines that each of your humans uses to meet their work and home needs. By embracing hybrid work environments, you can minimise the commutes that your employees need to make in order to reach your offices, or can encourage them to carpool together on particular days that they might need to come in.
On top of this, many companies that embrace hybrid work environments also adopt Bring Your Own Device policies, which allow their humans to work from their own laptops, rather than having two different machines for work and home use.
8. Choose Green Computing Providers
Making your own efforts to embrace green computing is commendable. But no business operates in isolation. Putting green IT practices in place is not an easy or a low-cost endeavour, and you will require the support of your customers and clients in making your green computing commitments a success. And the same applies to your vendors and suppliers as well.
By supporting other businesses that are prioritising eco-friendly technology implementations, you are further the impact of green computing practices, and ensuring that companies around the world see the benefit of going green.
How Can Solid Systems Help?
At Solid Systems, we believe in promoting positive company culture, not just in our own business, but in yours as well. We work with businesses and help them to meet their goals, whether that’s financially, or by implementing technologies that are truly going to make a difference to their humans and the world.
If your business is looking at implementing a green computing strategy, we can help you make the initiative a success. Our Managed IT Services include future-proof technology planning, cloud consulting and IT consulting, as well as training in the tools and solutions that we offer. This will help your humans to better connect with your business, adopt green IT into their own routines, and ensure that your eco-friendly initiatives are at the front and centre of the way you operate.
Interested in finding out more about how Solid Systems can help your business? Get in touch with us today.