Cloud computing, or the practice of using remote servers to store data and software, is changing the way the world does business. The cloud can be accessed from anywhere where there’s an internet connection, and therefore allows business data to be stored and continuously updated in one, central location. This guide to cloud computing explains the technology in further detail.
But what has this got to do with green business practices? Well, Microsoft has invested in a study that found “small and medium-sized businesses can reduce the impact of their activities on the environment by taking advantage of cloud technologies.”
However, others disagree, and the National Data Center Energy Efficiency Information Program’s factsheet states that in 2006, Data Centers used 61 billion kWh of electricity (equivalent to 1.5% of all U.S. energy consumption) and that the amount of energy consumed by data centers is set to continue to grow by 12% per year.
So which is true?
While data centers do consume massive amounts of electricity (and frequently use energy sources high in carbon, according to Greenpeace’s 2010 report), Google is going a long way towards offsetting this energy consumption. It’s also impossible to ignore the fact that the use of cloud computing technologies does reduce costs and lead to more flexible working practices for grass-roots green initiatives.
A 2010 study from Microsoft, Accenture and WSP Environment and Energy found that moving business applications to the cloud could cut the carbon footprint of the smallest and least efficient businesses by as much as 90%. Additionally, another recent study by cloud computing app provider Salesforce showed that their customers produced 95% less carbon, on average, than those running equivalent software on their own servers.
Cloud computing technology makes small businesses more efficient in several ways
1. Reducing power consumption by decreasing hardware requirements.
When a small business utilizes the cloud rather than having an in-house server, they will only need an internet connection to access their resources. This will dramatically reduce their power consumption and in turn, their energy bills.
2. Reducing the reliance on natural resources such as paper by digitalizing documents.
Going paperless eliminates the need to print out pages of resources and therefore decreases waste.
3. Limiting resource redundancy.
When small companies run their own servers, idle time is a considerable problem. Small companies almost never use 100% of their computing power, 100% of the time. This means that most of the time, the server is idle, using power while not doing anything productive. Cloud technology means that small companies only use the technology (and energy) they actually need.
Although huge data centers have a long way to go before fulfilling their green potential, on the whole they are aware of their responsibilities towards the environment. Using cloud computing technology allows small, green businesses to work more efficiently and become more eco-friendly, and gives green start-ups the kick start they need to get off the ground.
Luke Clum is a Seattle based graphic designer, developer and outdoorsman. While he loves writing and creating unique designs, he’s most content hiking or alpine climbing in the North Cascades. You can follow him on Twitter @lukeclum