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Stepping up to the 'green' challenge

David Lear

The premise of the centuries-old theory known as Occam's razor is that "all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the best one." Although the theory has been applied by theologians, philosophers, historians and scientists for some 700 years, businesses worldwide can make use of this wisdom in addressing environmental challenges, particularly the need to embrace simple, tangible and effective information technology IT systems to reduce their organisation's impact.

As an immediate step, companies should carefully review their IT infrastructure. In many organisations, legacy systems are only adding to rising energy and maintenance costs. Fortunately, the accelerated pace of global innovation is leading to newer products that are more productive, energy efficient and easier to maintain. Many desktop PCs on the market today come equipped with power management software that can remotely switch PCs off and on. From desktop to datacentre, customers should look for computers and servers that consume less energy and enable more performance per watt.

There are also benefits to investing in techniques such as server consolidation and virtualisation, which not only reduce energy consumption but also make better use of existing hardware. For a large datacentre, the cost to power and cool servers can quickly exceed the cost of the hardware itself. Virtualisation ensures that server and storage resources in the data centre are better utilised, thus requiring less power to do more.

Second, companies should encourage mobile technologies. As the world becomes flatter, the cost- and time-saving benefits of the internet, e-mail and web conferencing make it dramatically easier to manage information and communicate. Technologies such as 3G mobile broadband and wireless networks enable employees to stay connected wherever they are without the need for travel. According to a recent Forum for the Future study, 25% of the UK's carbon emissions are the result of increased transport. Investment in mobile technologies will help mitigate this trend.

Finally, businesses looking to make a difference can invest in proper disposal of unwanted computer equipment. An IDC survey commissioned by Dell found that the sector responsible for managing the recovery and recycling of unwanted equipment is in the midst of a "major transformation," evolving from a relatively new sector to one with established processes and metrics. Legislation is also changing the landscape for how businesses collect, treat and recycle electronic goods. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive now applies to any company manufacturing electrical and electronic products for the European Union (EU) market. Customers should work with their provider to require that unwanted systems be recycled based on the highest recycler performance standards and practices.

Regardless of size or location, every business can become an environmental leader by embracing simple but aggressive processes. Just as quickly as information technology transformed the world, the simplest forms of innovation are enabling creative, cost-effective and efficient ways of working. Whether virtual or otherwise, this will ultimately bring businesses and customers closer together while safeguarding the environment for generations to come.


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