You’ve repainted the place in non-VOC shades. You’ve introduced a composting program to the staff mess. You’ve gone as paperless as you can in a paper-loving world.
But the call for corporate responsibility is a profound and meaningful one whose noisy bleats are unrelenting. And this inside a growing understanding that more and more pollution derives from computing. The Environmental Protection Agency in the US declared that a full 1.5% of total electricity consumed in 2006 came from this source.
Take fresh heart then that there is a new opportunity for you to be greener still—and it lies in the skies.
A recent Microsoft-commissioned study has concluded that cloud computing — the remote-hosting darling of the computerized corporate landscape that’s already turning heads with its promises of decreased costs and increased flexibility — is actually good for the environment.
By comparing the energy usage of those business applications that are resident on site to their cloud-based equivalents, researchers have identified a remarkable disparity that points to the latter’s potential to save companies — at minimum — some 30% in energy consumption and carbon emissions.
At the far end of the scale, enormous public cloud environments and large data centres, such as those helmed by the likes of Google and Amazon, enjoy those savings courtesy of vast economies of scale, virtualization, dynamically-provisioned software and other well-entrenched operational efficiencies that already characterize their massive operation.
More critically, though, those organizations at the other end — i.e., small businesses that employ just 100 users or so — can score even higher by undertaking a switch to a cloud-based environment.
By incorporating the dynamic provisioning, more responsive server utilization and other efficiency-inspiring strategies cloud computing offers, these companies stand to save by an astonishing 90% or more. The smaller the operation is, it turns out, the greater the environmental benefits.
Mid-sized companies whose user base hovers around 1,000 can expect savings of 60%-90%.
The study honed in on three popular on-premise Microsoft business applications: Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007. It contrasted each with a cloud-based alternative, namely: Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online.
Methodically, it determined the carbon footprint and energy expenditure produced by typical corporate IT data centres, complete with servers and storage dedicated to separate applications. It did so considering deployment scenes featuring 100, 1,000 and 10,000 users. It compared and contrasted traditional and hosted scenarios.
In turn the study, conducted by Accenture and sustainability consulting company WSP Energy & Environment, concluded that there is much to be gained by a wholesale adoption of hosted computer services. Indeed, researchers point out simply shifting 50,000 e-mail users from individual Exchange servers to Microsoft Exchange Online translates into emissions savings of 32%.
The future, more apparently than ever, resides in the clouds.