Methods for Improving Your IT Department's Environmental Footprint

Companies in many industries want to go green and have taken big steps to do so, but one business aspect has typically been resistant to these efforts: IT. This is because IT (information technology) equipment has requirements that normally draw a surprisingly large amount of power. It is hard to reduce the overall demand for energy, so many sustainability efforts focus instead on using greener sources for that power.

One of the big power draws concerns cooling. Servers and other computers generate a high amount of heat when in use. This heat must be eliminated or their circuits can bake. Therefore, a data center typically has air conditioning running at all times. It will also have backup systems to make sure the air conditioners keep working even if there's a power failure.

One way data centers lower their environmental footprint is by using nontraditional forms of air conditioning. Google's data centers, for example, use outside air for cooling in cold climates. Those in hot areas are cooled by water that is reused from a nearby source. The water cooling system used by Google doesn't just lower the need for traditional air conditioning. It avoids using drinking water by recycling gray water from local municipal treatment plants. Any water that isn't evaporated during the cooling process is then treated by Google before being returned to a river or other source.

Another way companies lower the greenhouse-gas emissions related to their IT departments is by using computers and related equipment that is more efficient than the normal versions. This is much easier than developing an entire data center cooling system. Companies and individuals can look for the Energy Star seal on monitors, computer towers and related equipment. This symbol lets people easily see which equipment meets advanced efficiency standards.

Video cards (GPUs) are a huge consumer of power and generator of heat. While someone heavily involved with graphics production or computer games wouldn't dream of sacrificing their top-tier GPU for a bit of energy savings, many companies can easily replace these cards with graphics systems that are integrated with the computer's motherboard.

Virtualization is a method of improving efficiency that is currently gaining ground. A virtual machine allows one computer to act as though it is actually several different ones. This can allow multiple users to set up custom computing environments without the need to buy, power or cool an array of different computers. This both helps the environment and directly improves a company's bottom line.

Recycling may seem like it'd be a no-brainer for IT departments wishing to be more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, this is one area where the electronics industry is lagging. Most domestic companies cannot efficiently process the complex parts of computers and peripherals, and sending the parts overseas is hardly efficient.

Despite this, IT sustainability has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few years. Whether you simply look for the Energy Star logo or are in a position to redesign an entire data center, you have plenty of opportunities for making your information technology department far more efficient than the baseline.

Original author: Marilynn

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