Color Your IT Strategy Green - Page 2

By Polly Traylor
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2. A Slimmer Desktop

Yes, we’re talking about thin clients. Again. Yet now there's a valid economic imperative to just do it. After all, it's unlikely that few ‑ if any ‑ people in your organization need a power-hungry, fully-loaded PC.  James Storozuk, CIO for Toronto-based Ontario Realty Corp., recently switched the company's 350 employees to Lenovo thin clients with LCD displays.

“It uses 20 to 25 percent of the power as a standard desktop,” he said.  There are also many IT management benefits to thin clients, since desktops can be managed from one location. And, employees can "transport" their profile from device to device and access their data wherever they are.

The still nascent notion of desktop virtualization is another viable option.  Just like server virtualization, desktop virtualization allows a company to run multiple individual client operating systems on a single machine ‑ saving on hardware costs and energy. 

For some small businesses, Burke said that replacing the desktop PC with a thin client (consisting of only a monitor and keyboard) and using virtualization software from companies such as VMWare and Citrix is a smart practice.  "You could support about seven people per processor core, so 28 people for a dual-core-dual-processor server," he said.  Of course, thin clients and virtualization are not appropriate for every business ‑ it depends on how many PCs and servers are in place, and sometimes, the nature of the work.

3. Outsourcing

Ah, yes, the green movement offers yet another reason to consider outsourcing applications and infrastructure. That's always been a cost-effective option for small businesses with limited or nonexistent IT staff on hand. 

From an energy-efficient standpoint, the beauty of outsourcing is that a single provider can support you and hundreds or even thousands of other businesses -- versus each company buying, maintaining, and powering all the equipment individually.  The best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to take the offending machinery out of the equation in the first place. 

4. Mobile Computing and Networking Technologies

To support anytime, anywhere workplaces and telecommuting, it's a good idea to make smart investments in mobile computing.  As always, buy energy-efficient devices, accessories and appliances that also minimize the use of toxic chemicals from EPEAT or the Softchoice EcoSolutions site.

Networking technology is also getting greener.  Just as you can place your PCs in sleep mode when they're not in use, a company called D-Link, has developed Ethernet switches which do basically the same thing.  The company's "Green Ethernet" technology recognizes when a port is active or inactive, and then adjusts the power accordingly. 

According to information at the company's Web site, even when a computer is shut down, switches often remain on and continue to consume considerable amounts of power. D-Link's new switches can detect when a computer is turned off and will respond accordingly by powering down the corresponding port into standby mode. The company's technology also adjusts power usage based on cable length.  The shorter the transmission link, the less power is used. Rest assured you'll see more announcements of green networking solutions like these, in the near future.

5. Monitoring Tools

To really make a difference, your company needs a reliable way to control and monitor your energy usage. Many associations and vendors now have free calculators on their Web sites that you can use to set a baseline of your carbon footprint ‑ such tools are easy to find with a keyword search.

Energy monitoring is an emerging area for companies, but growing fast, according to Eric Woodruff, PhD, international environmental consultant and founder of Profitable Green Solutions.  He describes Web-based tools to control lights and workstations and remote-monitoring programs you can run on a mobile phone that can send alerts about a water leak in a facility or something else requiring immediate attention.  "The technology is changing on a daily to weekly basis," he said.

Just like other system statistics such as performance and network utilization, you should consider the regular tracking of energy use.  The Energy Star site offers a free "Portfolio Manager" service to do just that (it also tracks water utilization in your building). The software is maintained and updated by an Energy Star private-sector contractor for accuracy and to maintain confidentiality.

These are just a few ideas. If you think creatively, you probably will find many more technology-oriented ways to save your company money and reduce emissions at the same time.

Be sure to read part one and part two of this series.

Polly Schneider Traylor is a freelance business and technology writer based in San Mateo, California.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on July 07, 2008
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