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January 31, 2007

It isn’t easy being green in IT

Going 'green' in the IT industry is proving a challenge as a change in thinking is needed to make the most of the positive sides of being green - such as lower energy bills. When looking at 'greening' their IT infrastructure, organizations are finding that people often find it challenging to change lazy habits, yet the potential benefits can frequently be measured in hard cash.

By CBR Staff Writer

The challenge is that IT is both energy-intensive (in that all devices use power to a greater or lesser extent), and the creation of the necessary hardware consumes increasingly scarce resources (the making of silicon wafers is itself an extremely energy-intensive process), as well as creating a significant amount of waste that then needs safe and secure disposal.

During 2006, there were a number of stories of waste mountains building up in developing countries that are seen as cheap places to process waste, some of which was redundant hardware. The drive for software providers to write ever more sophisticated software seems to overlook the fact that such software often requires significantly more resources to run, needing both organizations and consumers to then upgrade kit that otherwise probably has a long operational life remaining.

One of the simplest things that organizations can do is to reduce their electricity consumption during the times when computing power is not actually needed – all those desktop machines consume a significant amount of power over time yet most are only actually needed during working hours. Simply switching them off overnight, weekends, and holiday days can make a big difference and save on power bills.

Yet this can be surprisingly difficult to achieve – perhaps relocating plugs and switches so that they can be more easily switched off at a central point could be one answer here. UK IT news website Silicon.com, reported just before Christmas 2006 that businesses were likely to waste some GBP8.6 million over the Christmas period, just by not switching off computers that were not being actively used.

Another aspect that will start to make a difference as it becomes more widely used is to conduct better information gathering at the pre-purchase stage. Ask manufacturers what the energy ratings are for the hardware that they sell – and go one step further than this, by asking about the carbon ‘footprint’ of the vendor themselves. This information may not always be forthcoming, but asking about it indicates to the vendor that its customers think it is important to know these details.

Changing what people do can be a challenge, as it often involves changing the way that they think about things – sometimes even getting them to think differently and then act on those altered thoughts. Indeed, it still is not at all easy to be green.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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