Businesses must step up to green challenge

Simple measures will reduce IT's carbon footprint

The premise of Occam's razor is that, "All things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one."

This theory has been used by theologians, philosophers and scientists for some 700 years, and businesses can make use of this idea in addressing their organisation's impact on the environment.

As an immediate step, firms should review their IT infrastructure. In many organisations, legacy systems are adding to rising energy and maintenance costs.

Fortunately, the accelerated pace of global innovation is leading to products that are more productive and energy efficient.

Many desktop PCs on the market today come equipped with power-management software that can automatically switch PCs on and off. From desktop to datacentre, users should look for computers and servers that consume less energy and enable more performance per watt.

There are also benefits to be had from 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 of powering and cooling servers can soon exceed the cost of the hardware. Virtualisation ensures that server and storage resources are better used, thus requiring less power to do more.

Companies should also encourage the use of mobile technologies. As the internet, e-mail and web conferencing make it easier to manage information, the need for carbon-intensive travel is reduced.

Technologies such as 3G mobile broadband enable employees to stay connected wherever they are without the need for travel.

According to a Forum for the Future study, 25% of the UK's carbon emissions are the result of personal transportation. 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. A survey by research firm IDC has found that the sector responsible for managing the recycling of unwanted equipment is in the midst of a transformation, evolving from a relatively new sector to one with established processes and metrics.

Legislation is also changing how businesses collect, treat and recycle electronic goods. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive now applies to any company manufacturing electronic products for the EU market.

Regardless of size and 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 safeguard the environment for generations to come.

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