Going ‘green’ has become the new black, particularly in the IT industry. The spiraling cost of energy has meant that reducing the power consumption of your IT is more compelling than ever before. Up until a few years ago, electricity usage was not a major IT concern. In fact, the electricity costs for running and cooling computers generally was not even considered part of the IT budget.

For SMEs/businesses using data centres, servers did not draw that much power and their density in the data centre wasn’t significant enough to create any concern. That all changed with the phenomenal growth of the internet which has filled rack upon rack with ever more powerful servers.

A rack of servers typically requires about two kilowatts of power to operate but this figure jumps 4 times for a rack of blade servers. The problem is only made worse by running multiple racks of blades. With organisations looking at virtualisation to maximise server capacity, power consumption in individual racks is climbing as high as 24 kilowatts. Cooling uses almost as much energy to control rack temperatures and prevent machines from getting too hot and shutting down.

If you are still in doubt about how serious this is all getting, look at Google, arguably the world’s biggest data centre operator. It identified access to electrical power as its biggest IT risk and invested $2.5 billion in putting its data centres close to sustainable energy sources.

So where does a company start with ‘greening’ it’s IT? Making it a boardroom issue not just an IT manager’s problem is a priority. Ensure managers are accountable for the costs of running IT or IT within the data centre as they are in a position to do something about it.. Performing an audit of your energy usage for IT is also paramount to l help identify some power reducing, cost saving initiatives. Here are some examples of simple things to do to make an immediate impact:

Consolidating your kit

Consolidate your server and network infrastructure using technologies like virtualisation. The first step to virtualising your infrastructure would be to conduct a full audit to highlight underutilised systems and devices, for example print servers, dns servers etc. These types of kit are ideal for virtualising as you can run multiple servers and tasks on one physical device, bringing down your power consumption considerably. It will also save on hardware and general support services. Fewer physical devices will mean savings are to be made in cooling.

Keeping your tech up to date

Most leading hardware vendors are now supporting technologies that massively reduce power consumption on all their leading models. So with a simple technology refresh you may reduce your power consumption by up to 50%. If a business has older kit that is coming to the end of its life, look at updating, consolidating and going onto better performing kit that demands less power. Even if you decide to upgrade your kit earlier than necessary it may cost more in the short term but the power savings make it a win win scenario.

Cloud storage

One way to save energy has been the introduction of quality pay-as-you-go services. Outsourcing is no longer a luxury only the global companies can afford to help increase business efficiency. For example, hardware, software and data storage can be managed externally to actively reduce your carbon tax bill. This allows companies to shrink its overheads, lower the eco-footprint and keep control of costs, so there are no nasty billing surprises.

A cloud is ideally positioned for short term projects, non critical systems, disaster recovery, testing and staging environments where the demand is immediate but may only last for a short time. Having to make an investment in dedicated hardware is not only costly upfront, but also not the ‘greenest’ option. By using cloud services, the responsibility to be greener is put onto the service provider.

If you used virtualisation at the server-end then 8 or 9 physical servers could actually run 150 virtual machines, sharing resources between many users or companies – that’s an approximate 1:10 saving on buying resources and maintaining them. In energy terms, if each server used 300-400 watts of power – you can make a 4kw power-saving.

Take action now

A few well executed actions are worth more than well-intentioned plans. Get started with the simple stuff – the greening of IT and the data centre can start with a few actions – encourage your staff and your management and the impact could be very surprising.