Saving Energy to Save Money

Energy costs may soon eat up as much as 50% of your tech budget. Here’s how to conserve some of that juice

By Rachael King- Business Week

When it comes to energy conservation, many chief information officers have simply buried their heads in the sand. But they may not be able to afford to do that much longer. Energy costs—typically 10% of the corporate tech budget—could rise to as much as 50% in just a few years, according to consulting firm Gartner .

The problem is especially acute in data centers, the large buildings that house powerful computers and networking gear that as act the digital heart of most corporations, running critical operational software. With utility rates rising in every state in the country, companies need to act now to put a lid on rising costs. Whether you’re looking to save energy at the desktop or in the data center, here are some tips for lowering your electric bill.


Get Some Sleep Many computers come equipped with power-management features that simply aren’t turned on. General Electric discovered that activating sleep settings on approximately 75,000 computers and monitors meant a savings of $2.5 million per year.
Look for the Label The Energy Star label denotes some of the most energy-efficient desktop and laptop computers on the market.
Get Smart Smart power strips can sense when desktop computers are not in use and shut off power to associated peripherals such as monitors, scanners, printers, and DSL/cable modems.
Keep It Cool Nearly half of the power used in corporate data centers come from cooling systems designed to keep servers from overheating. Installing energy-efficient cooling systems can help keep a lid on electric bills.
More with Less Unlike desktop computers, most servers operate at only 5% to 15% of capacity because they typically each handle only one software program. Virtualization software now makes it possible reliably to run several software programs on the same server, letting some companies drastically reduce the number of servers in data centers.


Wait for a Crisis Some companies are surprised to find that electric companies can’t simply deliver more power to their data centers, and are left scrambling to find alternatives. Take steps to conserve energy now.
Lose Power Power supplies convert the high-voltage AC power from the wall socket to the low-voltage DC power computers and servers need to operate. Unfortunately, many power supplies act like leaky hoses, losing more than 20% of power along the way. Look for equipment with power supplies that are at least 80% efficient.
Leave It On Encourage employees to turn off computers at night and on the weekend. Or use power-management software such as 1E’s NightWatchman, which lets you remotely turn computers off and can help you cut energy costs.
Forget About Mother Nature Some data center cooling systems can take advantage of cool outside air, a technique called freecooling. One Wells Fargo () data center in Minnesota uses this technique and shuts off chillers when temperatures drop below 42F.
Leave it to Chance If you want to promote the use of energy-efficient products in your company, make sure to make that explicit in your corporate-procurement policies.