Most IT managers are under pressure to do more with less these days. Using less ink, paper and energy is one way to stretch your budget. But depending on whom you do business with, Green IT may also be a requirement.
The government now favors environmentally friendly contractors, and many large corporations run sustainability programs that are aimed at greening their supply chains. Green IT not only reduces your company’s impact on the environment, it is an opportunity to cut costs and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, too.
Green IT: Better for the environment, better for your bottom line
Challenge yourself to set aside some time to tackle the following five ways to implement Green IT at your organization and make your operations more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient:
1. Implement power management
A good way to start is to enable power management of the office computers. Powering down machines when not in use can shrink energy bills significantly. Use the instructions from the Climate Savers Computing Initiative to configure workstations manually or use any number of software solutions, including some free, open source software, to activate sleep settings across your network. (Also, consider banning screen savers, another power drain.)
Unless you need access outside normal business hours, encourage your co-workers to unplug at the end of the day since many devices draw power even when turned off. Make sure everyone has a power strip to make this less of a pain. If necessary, use scripts to install patches and updates when users log on in the morning.
You may want to look into Verdiem’s Surveyor software. It lets you manage power settings via the network, but you can also power on devices to apply patches and updates and then turn them off again. You can even create user profiles to make sure your policies make sense for the way they work.
If you think your users will pitch a fit about having to wake up their system all the time, read the Energy Star website’s sample email. It’s a good example of how to help them get over the minor inconvenience.
When it’s time to replace equipment, look for Energy Star-qualified products. The Energy Star Low Carbon IT Campaign website has lists of qualified equipment available for download, along with many other useful resources. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) at www.epeat.net is another helpful resource with ratings of environmentally friendly electronics.
2. Change default print settings
Another quick change you can make is to modify the default print settings of the office printers:
- Set margins to the minimum width to fit more text on a page.
- Print double-sided, if possible.
- Make draft mode and/or low quality the default.
- Print in black and white or grayscale.
- Under advanced settings, some printers let you change the resolution. In most cases, 300 dpi is more than enough.
Users might resist, but bring them around by pointing out how much ink, paper and energy they’ll save. Tell them what settings to change on their end to save even more. For example, they can change their default font. Century Gothic uses 30% less ink than Arial, but it is slightly wider, so ask them to set the default size to 10 as well.
If Century Gothic won’t fly, consider using Ecofont. The software prints text in commonly used fonts like Arial, Verdana, Calibri, Times New Roman and Trebuchet MS, but uses 50% less ink. It is compatible with MS Word and Outlook.
You might also want to look at GreenPrint. GreenPrint automatically eliminates unneeded pages in a printout, like that annoying last page with only a URL. The company offers versions for home users, small businesses and large enterprises. The enterprise version includes reporting capabilities so you can see exactly how much you are saving.
Similar to GreenPrint is ecoPrint2 Standard: Ink and Toner Saver. It works in the background to reduce the amount of ink used by up to 75% without any action by the user. ecoPrint2 Pro: Ink and Paper Saver does it too but also allows users to adjust margins, eliminate unnecessary pages before printing, print multiple pages on one sheet of paper, and combine pages from multiple documents into one. Both versions can be used on any printer, networked or not.
How do I get my users on board?
Tell them: 1) what exactly is changing, 2) who will be affected and 3) when the changes will go into effect. Help them understand that, while the changes may be irritating, Green IT practices are better for the company and the environment.
3. Call an electrician
The majority of office buildings have 120-Volt (V) electrical outlets because electrical code mandates that habitable spaces have 120V wiring with one outlet for every 10 feet of exposed wall. Therefore, entry- and mid-level servers are shipped with 120V power cords for the sake of convenience.
But those same servers are capable of running at 208V. The fundamental limitations of running at 120V make converting your receptacles to 208V a no-brainer. (In fact, data centers are moving toward running their high-powered servers at 240V in increasing numbers.) According to SmallBusinessComputing.com, “Operating at a higher voltage actually means drawing less current from the same power supply. This allows the devices, wires, fuses and switches to run cooler, which saves energy and reduces strain on the hardware.”
Call an electrician to get an estimate of how much it will cost to make the switch. Once the rewiring is complete, all you need to do is replace your servers’ 120V power cords with 208V power cords.
4. Increase the temperature in your server room by a degree
If your server room feels like a meat locker, it’s probably OK to set the thermostat slightly higher. Experts believe that increasing the setpoint temperature by just one degree can reduce your energy consumption by as much as 4-5%.
However, data center managers have to take this step carefully to avoid any unintended consequences, such as causing fans to run faster or intensifying existing hotspots. Energy Star recommends raising the thermostat gradually, over time while carefully monitoring temperature and humidity throughout the environment. Read its guide to adjusting server inlet temperature and humidity for advice. For a step-by-step plan, go to the Data Center Resources article, Increasing CRAC Set Points to Save Energy Costs.
5. Schedule an energy audit
To max out your energy efficiency, plug the leaks where energy is lost at the same time you increase the temperature in your server room or data center. An energy audit will tell you where energy is lost and what physical improvements you need to make to plug those leaks.
Depending on your power company, you can either complete an online energy audit in a few minutes or you can call their business hotline and schedule an on-site visit by an expert. Most utilities offer an on-site audit for free or only charge a small fee. Wikipedia has a list of US electric companies by state.
There are companies that conduct energy audits using thermal maps created with infrared technology. The white paper Using Thermal Mapping at the Data Center gives you an overview of how it works. Infraredprofessionals.com has a search tool you can use to find service providers in your state.
The great thing about these five suggestions is that they are relatively easy to do. Admittedly, Green IT requires some time to implement. However, even if you feel like your contribution to the environment doesn’t amount to much, the cost savings alone make them worth doing.