Green Business

Richard Casselberry (US) - The Real Cost of Green IT

There sure are a lot of vendors selling "Green" solutions now. I'm all for helping save the earth, I mean I live here too and would hate to suddenly find my house underwater when all the glaciers melt, but many of these solutions don't really make sense once you start peeling back the onion so to speak. In some cases they actually cost more and while that may be worth it from an ecological perspective, there are also some solutions that both help with the environment and have a good return on investment.

Let's look at a few examples, and show how you can do a quick back of the envelope calculation to see if it's even worth looking at.

Software that can turn off computers at night, sure sounds like a good idea, right? We looked at this, but the initial cost of the software, $10,000 and the fact that 75% of our PC's are laptops we weren't sure. When we removed the laptops, since they go home at night when we could turn them off, we were left with only 300 machines. The average desktop we have uses about 90 watts. We pay around twelve cents a kilowatt hour. A kilowatt hour is 1000 watts for an hour. This means that a desktop for us can run 11 hours for .12, or right around a penny an hour. Assuming we can turn off all 300 desktops for 8 hours a day, that comes out to $24 a day. With a cost of 10k, the ROI is 416 days. That doesn't include weekends, but it also doesn't include the time to set it up, test it, and explain to users why their machine turned off overnight. We passed.

A friend of mine sells a device that he claims can reduce the cost we spend on outdoor lighting by 60%. Sounds great. Honestly, I don't know how much money we spend on outdoor lighting, but out of the almost 100k a month we spend on power, I'd guess less than 1% is for outdoor lights. I mean we have 20 of them in the parking lot that run for eight hours a day. If we assume each one is a 1000 watt light, that's 20kwh for eight hours. Which, at our current rate, comes out to $19.20 a day, or under $600 a month. I have no doubt that we can cut this in half, but in the big scheme of things, my time's better spent on bigger ticket items.

Windows 7 supposedly can reduce power usage on a PC from $19 to $43 a year. I didn't believe it, so we tested it and it actually does save power. In fact compared to the same machine running XP it uses from two to five times more electricity... I'm sure to some people this is no surprise, but I was amazed. We calculated our savings and it comes out at $23, which is in the range Microsoft told us. Again though, the cost to upgrade to Windows 7 makes doing this for power reasons alone foolish.

I think there are a lot of good products that can help reduce power usage and make the environment greener, but not all of them fit every situation and we need to evaluate these, to see if they warrant any real investment. I actually think the outdoor lighting would make a lot of sense if I was a municipal government with hundreds or thousands of lights! And we are upgrading to Windows 7 but not just for the power savings...

I guess the short version when looking at Green technology is "Buyer Beware".

Rich Casselberry is director of IT Operations for Enterasys Networks in Andover, Mass. He is responsible for the company's IT infrastructure and ensuring that employees around the world have reliable, secure access to the IT resources they need to do their jobs. He was published in InfoWorld with the article "The 30 skills every IT person should have"



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