How to green your IT operations in 5 steps

South Africa hopes to implement a carbon tax between 2013 and 2014 and Eskom is looking to hike up the electricity price again soon.  Businesses are scrambling to prepare for the future legislation while reducing their energy costs at the same time. Yet your biggest energy expenditure may be coming from an unexpected source: your IT operations. Tim James, owner of sustainableIT, tells us how companies can reduce their energy consumption in 5 easy steps.


1.       Make it the CIO’s responsibility


IT departments aren’t reducing energy because firstly, they don’t have the time or the staff to do it, and secondly, because they aren’t required to. Businesses should require the same commitment to energy and operational efficiency from their IT department as they do from their manufacturing plant or logistics team. If more CIOs were required to measure and report business energy use, more focus would be placed on reducing the significant amounts of wasted energy within their own IT operations.


2.       Determine your carbon footprint online


Understanding your carbon footprint can be daunting. It takes time and expertise to interpret your business data and ensure that the correct emissions factors are applied. Using online tools, such as the carbon report ( can deconstruct the complexities and deliver a carbon footprint audit report. This will help you determine how you have reduced your carbon emissions on an annual basis, without undergoing the expense of hiring an environmental audit team.


3.       Turn your PCs off at night


It’s surprising how many people (even IT people) still believe that PCs are not meant to be switched off every day. This may have been true 20 years ago, but modern PCs are more than capable of rebooting every day. We recently conducted an analysis of one of the top 4 banks in the country and found that 98% of their PCs were left on overnight as per instruction from their IT department. This is quite common as IT departments conduct security patching after hours and mistakenly believe that all PCs should be turned on at all times for them to do so. By remotely switching PCs off and then “waking” them up again, a company with about 10 000 PCs can actually reduce their CO2 emissions by 2 600 metric tons…and quantify that into an energy saving of R2 million! Power management tools can be installed in a matter of weeks and allow IT departments to overcome limitations in terms of wake on lan without any changes to network security whatsoever.


4.       Get rid of servers you don’t need


When it comes to servers, most companies are hesitant to take action to remove or optimise them. Removing an unused server isn’t scary – you can easily determine which servers are serving a purpose and remove them. Think of your software distribution points. Banks and retailers often invest in huge server infrastructures for software distribution that are extremely hard to maintain. Much of the time, staff are called out to install software at branches as corporate networks cannot take the additional load of software deployments. Better to replace all these remote servers with intelligent software tooling that allows deployment across your networks with no impact on business traffic. This not only reduces your hardware spend, but your maintenance and staff costs too, freeing your IT team up to do more within your network.


5.       Optimise the servers you do need


Servers are, on any given day, using energy to do “useful” work (e.g. the work employees do on a day to day basis) and “housekeeping” work (such as indexing checks or antivirus updates). Although the housekeeping work is necessary, it can waste energy. By forcing the server software into the lowest energy-using state while still running, you can cut your data center energy use by 12% with no impact on performance.


IT waste is easily overlooked, but it can be a crucial contributor to your carbon footprint. By implementing simple software solutions, you can cut your energy costs and lower emissions in a matter of days.

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