Small and Medium Businesses are Saving More Cash Than Ever by Going Green

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by: Frank J. Ohlhorst

Sustainability, green technology, reduced power footprints, renewable energy and efficiency on demand have all become terms readily thrown about in the data center, where reducing operational expenses is becoming a priority.

However, IT pros and managers for SMBs are starting to wonder if there is any substance to the Green Technology hype and if the same technology used in the data center can offer tangible savings and benefits.

It turns out that the answer to those inquiries is a resounding yes. Leveraging Green Technology does not have to be a complex, tedious process – thanks to the efforts of those designing data center technologies, green tech has started to move downstream to the individual server and desktop PC.

First and foremost is the obvious – looking at how efficient a particular device is. Many hardware manufactures are designing their PCs, Servers and Workstations with power savings in mind. Several standards have been created to measure those efficiencies, ranging from the EPA’s Energy Star Program to less well known standards, such as efficiency ratings for power supplies like the 80 Plus Program, and integrated power management built into bios, motherboard and other components (AMD P-Suite, Intel Power Management, etc.).

Small business green technologyHowever, just having those options doesn’t necessarily equate savings. If energy saving capabilities are not enabled, then there are no benefits to be realized. However, the main problem here comes down to management – how does one select what energy saving technologies to enable (or even purchase) and then how do you measure the results.

Managing power consumption can be a tricky science, it takes intimate knowledge and reporting on a particular environment to successfully deliver savings that actually can impact the bottom line. Using a holistic approach that looks at the whole networking infrastructure (even if it is only a dozen PCs) proves to work best.

Today, the typical PC offers integrated power control options, ranging from hibernate to sleep to suspend modes, to the ability to shut down individual components (hard drives, displays, wireless), and even the capability to place processors in low power usage states.

The obvious goal becomes one of leveraging those capabilities, which is usually done at the PC OS level –  however, that can be a time consuming process, which is also subject to the whims of the end user. Resolving those issues takes a different approach, one that institutes rules and policies. That means turning to the world of network management software, more specifically, power management suites. Here, a network administrator can manage the settings on all of the connected PCs from a central console, then craft rule sets that apply power saving schemes across all PCs on the network.

For example, policies can be created that shut down PCs automatically during non business hours, only allowing the PCs to be used during the normal work day. What’s more, other policies can be created to automatically hibernate or suspend a PC after a certain period of inactivity. Of course, a power management suite should offer granularity and be able to create rules that are based upon everything from applications in use to the power state of individual components.

For example, a policy could be created that places the CPU into a low power usage state if there is little activity on the PC, or hard drives could be spun down during no activity periods. Those types of savings can add up quickly. Just imagine a small business that uses about a dozen PCs, which for convenience are left on 24×7, by shutting those systems down during non work hours, power consumption could be reduced by as much as 70 percent.

Of course, that may be the most extreme of examples, but it does remain valid nonetheless.

Much the same can be said about other SMB components, such as file servers, NAS devices, RAID arrays, printers and so on. However, there is a unique opportunity when it comes to SMB servers, one that is often thought to only apply to big iron in the data center, and that is server virtualization. According to research house IDC, the typical server only utilizes 10 to 15 percent of its processing power and spends much of its time idle.

Virtualizing a server can boost utilization to as much as 80 or 90 percent and allows that server to take on multiple roles. In other words, one virtualized server can replace several physical servers, reducing overall power consumption, as well as hardware costs.

Combining virtualization and power management schemes proves to be the best way for a smaller entity to achieve some level of greeness – however, as technology advances, more and more options will move down the food chain from the enterprise to the small business sector, providing even additional opportunities for savings, with VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) leading the charge – more on that later.

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