Greening IT

The environmental buzzword “green” is everywhere. Today, we are encouraged to go green, build green and live green. To do so, however, is not always easy and can be a costly proposition.

In today’s challenging economy, many businesses are simply not able to replace their auto fleets with hybrid vehicles or invest in complete building overhauls to funnel rain water. However, there are cost-efficient ways to green your business. One area that is commonly overlooked is technology. Recent advancements have made today an opportune time to see how technology can make businesses greener.

Those who have been through the energy crunch of the 1970s recall the emergence of “environmentalism,” and can certainly see the similarities in today’s push for green resources in general. The 70s contributed to major advancements in technologies such as more efficient vehicles, sustainable and less costly methods for extracting natural resources, and changes in consumer behavior that resulted in reduced waste and better use of available resources. The current economic and global climate has once again led to drastic changes in how we view not only energy, but our resources such as water, oil and other renewable and non renewable resources.

Technology continues to rapidly evolve and improve efficiencies in the workplace, ranging from the need to conserve energy, cool computer systems and reduce unfriendly emissions caused by the glut of computer equipment on our desks and in our data centers.

Additionally, adapting to change is as much of a benefit as the actual technology components themselves. Case in point: many companies today have transitioned to a virtual office environment. It’s no longer business as usual -“ business previously conducted in the boardroom is now carried out from the kitchen table or corner Starbucks.

The green technologies that make these virtual offices possible not only provide access to central networks and data, but also offer businesses options to purchase less expensive end-user devices with fewer moving parts. These ‘thin’ devices are more energy- and cost efficient, feature considerably smaller components and boast longer lifecycles than traditional laptops and PCs. These devices, and the enabling technologies, are often less expensive up-front and, in the long term, the total cost of ownership is lower because they are more secure, less complex, less likely to break down, and typically last two to three times longer than current PC technologies.

The virtual office isn’t the only ‘virtualization’ benefit. Servers in data centers have traditionally been expensive energy consumers that create a lot of heat, requiring even more energy to mitigate. They also contribute a considerable amount of unfriendly refuse at the end of their three- to five-year lifecycles. That, however, is only half the story. In addition to being physically wasteful, most servers utilize only 20% to 30% of their available processing power/resources.

Through virtualization technologies, data centers are able to take greater advantage of the available server resources (80% or more) and a single virtual ‘desktop’ server can potentially run 60 to 80 desktops. Virtual computing is easier to manage and less costly to maintain than individual machines. Businesses that pair these improvements with hardware that is energy efficient, with less heat and emissions, will cut costs, extend equipment life and realize a more productive workforce.

Implementing green technologies oftentimes has a positive effect on customer satisfaction. In the case of the ‘virtual’ office, the anywhere/anytime model allows businesses to respond to customer inquiries or resolve issues immediately. The speed and efficiency of integrated virtual technologies coupled with agile business processes, results in a quick response and fosters collaboration between customers and co-workers.

The advent of green technologies has been a catalyst in many ways to help eliminate barriers that have traditionally existed between technical and non-technical worlds. Technical or non-technical, as business leaders we all understand the bottom line: reduced energy use will cut costs.

Dawn Simpson is vice president of recurring services in the Professional Services Practice of Trivalent Group, one of Michigan’s largest technology firms.