In today's business world, green IT is no longer an abstract or fringe topic. Executives are looking into greener IT because energy costs are such a large operating expense for IT. By using more energy-efficient IT and business processes, organizations can reduce operating costs. Furthermore, there's evidence that motivation extends beyond simple cost and energy savings and now include the desire to implement environmentally responsible practices. In Symantec's recent Green IT report, 89 percent of respondents indicate IT should play a very or extremely significant "green role," while 94 percent report that their organization has a "green" advocate, most of which have an IT focus. 

To make IT greener, organizations need to evaluate the environmental impacts and business processes and technology used for creating, producing, selling, and using goods and services. IT pervades most of those processes and has become a large consumer of energy. The amount of energy consumed by servers and data centers alone receives significant publicity. In global terms, total carbon emissions by all data centers in the world eclipse emission totals from many countries. On average, experts say that a third to half of this energy is wasted by underutilized servers and storage devices, among other culprits. 

Implementing greener IT tactics such as consolidating or decommissioning underused devices and/or applications can provide immediate reductions in energy consumption and costs. They are practical ways for your organization to contain costs and improve operating efficiency while reducing carbon emissions. 

Comply With Regulations

Requirements for compliance with greener business practices vary around the world. Some nations have published guidelines to help self-regulate demand for energy, such as Greening Government ICT in the United Kingdom or EPA Data Center recommendations, LEED building guidelines, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star program. The latter now includes guidelines for servers. Another area of change is the emergence of regional carbon emission trading organizations; these are based on government- or quasi-government-driven limits or caps on pollutants that organizations are allowed to emit. 

Enhance Organization's Reputation

The responsibilities of corporations to be good stewards of corporate funds and manage the organization toward green objectives are increasingly aligned with social responsibility. Symantec's Green IT report provided proof of this shift – 86 percent of respondents indicated that corporate wants IT to be "green." Proving corporate social responsibility by reducing carbon emissions can help improve an organization's image, build brand equity, and reinforce confidence with corporate shareholders and stakeholders. Every organization is becoming accountable – and not just for the impact of business operations on the environment. Some customers require suppliers to meet minimum green requirements to qualify for responding to RFPs for products and services. 

Tactical Green IT Steps

The process of implementing greener IT in an organization includes tactics for three realms: endpoints, printers, and enterprise IT operations. Some of these tactics can be implemented with relatively little effort by an organization. Other tactics – especially those affecting the data center and the entire organization – require planning and coordination to ensure non-disruptive deployment. 

Some tactics are a one-time event, but many require ongoing participation by all employees. A greener IT initiative should, therefore, be endorsed by your organization's executives to ensure acceptance and successful deployment across the enterprise. 

Tactics for Endpoints and Printers

Endpoints are the devices used by employees, contractors, and visitors to perform personal computing and to access and use corporate applications, data, and IT resources. Desktop computers are the most common endpoints. Mobile endpoints are another essential consideration, including laptops, handheld devices, and smartphones. Organizations can take some simple steps to improve endpoint energy utilization among endpoints and printers.

  • Unplug power bricks not connected to a device
  • Replace old monitors with LCD screens
  • Switch monitors to standby after five minutes of inactivity
  • Shut down PCs after office hours
  • Enable active power management on desktops
  • Ensure re-use of equipment that is no longer required but is still serviceable
  • Specify lower-power-consumption CPUs and high-efficiency power supply units with 80 percent conversion or better
  • Use thin client technology
  • Apply timer switches to non-networked technology and printers
  • Use green default settings on printers, such as duplex and gray scale
  • Optimize power-saving sleep mode on printers

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Tactics for Enterprise IT

Tactics for the enterprise offer the biggest potential for cost containment, improving the efficiency of business processes, and reducing carbon emissions. This potential also carries a bigger requirement for planning, coordination, and management of each tactic to ensure successful implementation without disrupting the enterprise. The most significant savings come from consolidation of endpoints, servers, data, applications, and optimization of data centers and facilities.

Organizations waste a significant amount of power and money on underutilized servers. Typical practice has been running servers at about 20 percent of processing capacity. Lately, some organizations have increased this to about 30 percent in response to the business climate's imperative to do more with gear that's already deployed. Yet a server, even when idle, still requires 50 percent to 70 percent of the power used at full load. Worse, air conditioning for cooling a server machine room consumes at least the same amount of power as the equipment, which doubles wasted electricity costs. A simple solution is to run existing servers at a higher average load, giving users more cost-efficient power usage. Furthermore, it will allow the organization to delay buying more servers as usage gradually catches up with existing assets. Organization may also use server virtualization to configure multiple virtual servers on a single physical server.

Improving data efficiency can drive efficiencies throughout the IT infrastructure. Reduction of stored data decreases the number of required devices for storage, which in turn lowers energy consumption. Another tactic is to "de-duplicate" data – i.e., deleting unnecessary duplicate physical copies of data and consolidating its use into fewer locations. Finally, a multi-tiered storage infrastructure can improve efficiency by locating rarely or never accessed data on devices without a constant power draw or mechanical action. 

As the organization consolidates servers, data and applications, it makes sense to reduce the amount of real estate required for data centers, while also reducing data center power consumption. Specific strategies include hot and cold air containment, retiring unused equipment, implementing more efficient use of racks and floor space, adjusting cooling equipment to meet reduced loads, and checking variable-speed fan settings, and monitoring and reporting on power usage.


As organizations begin to embark on Green IT projects, there are a number of tactics IT can begin to deploy. If the organization is new to green IT, it makes sense to start with "quick wins" for immediate cost savings, enhanced utilization of technology, and the added benefit of environmental responsibility. Enrolling the company in a green IT initiative requires a commitment from top executives and extends throughout the company. Some aspects of the initiative may require an investment, so demonstrating that IT can produce results and getting executive sign-off from the beginning will ensure success. 

Encouraging environment-friendly production and consumption is officially part of major government, commercial, and social initiatives worldwide. Opinions vary on environmental issues, but nearly everyone agrees that individuals and organizations must do something to reduce our impact on the environment, while also realizing significant cost savings. Creating a more energy efficient IT infrastructure is now also a proximate and pressing corporate directive that has CIOs taking notice.

Ken Gonzalez is group product manager at Symantec Global.

The above opinion piece is from an independent writer and is not connected with Greentech Media News. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not endorsed by Greentech Media.