Green IT for the Small Business

July 18, 2008

Green is definitely the big buzz word now, even in IT.  Companies are taking close looks at their data centers and trying to find ways to make them “greener”.  At a small business, it’s hard to find the time and resources to look into this, but taking a few steps could not only be a benefit for the environment, but also your bottom line.  Making your data center more green can save a decent amount on energy bills.  There were recently some good articles on bMighty about this.  The first one was just a high level short blurb, but the second I’m referring to is a good list of 5 simple questions you can look at to make your data center greener.

I think there are a couple things small business can do very easily to be green.  First off, as the one article suggests, mid 70’s is a perfectly acceptable temperature for your data center.  Even if you move from 68 to 72, that’s a good start and can save a decent amount of money.  If you’re just desiging your data center, maybe you can consider some alternative systems as well that can use external air when it’s cool enough instead of always running the chiller.

Another good thing a small business can do is give serious consideration to SaaS offerings where it makes sense.  When you go with a SaaS solution, you remove this burden from your data center and onto someone else’s.  That other person generally would have a decent size data center and can benefit from multi-tenant hosting to maximize their efficiency and make their data centers green.

Finally, another easy step for small business is to consider virtualization.  We all know that the more services you run from one computer the more critical that computer becomes and the more difficult it becomes to maintain.  Because of this, we will tend to run very few services on a single machine.  The issue with this is we now have 20 small servers running at less than 15% (often less than 10%) utilization.  This is obviously not very efficient and creates a lot of unnecessary heat that must be cooled.  The solution…get one decent size server running virtualization (like an VMWare ESEX server) and run all these small, underutilized machines in there.  This can greatly improve on energy use.

So there are three fairly simple things a small business can do to save some money and help the environment.  If you have any other ideas I’d like to hear them.