Cloud computing offers a number of environmental advantages over on-site alternatives. We take a look at why making the switch to cloud could make a big difference to the planet.
Sustainable business goes so much further than off-setting emissions and stocking the office fridge with vegan snacks. Doing the right thing used to be more about a corporate badge of honour than real-world change. But today, businesses that don’t embrace ethical practices, don’t course-correct to carbon neutrality, and don’t take stock and assess their long-term impact on the planet, won’t keep up with the competition–it’s survival of the sustainable.
With energy consumption a primary consideration for establishing good green credentials, where and how companies store data and access software has become a significant decision that sets them apart from their competitors.
Public cloud data centers used to deal in dirty energy, but in recent years there’s been a growing transition to renewable sources. A 2018 study found that the Microsoft Cloud, as an example, is up to 93 percent more energy efficient than traditional on-premises servers, and can result in 98% lower carbon emissions.
Cloud computing means your people have access to what they need to work efficiently from anywhere. There are a number of big business benefits to embracing cloud-based technology, but what about the environmental edge it offers? Let’s take a look at some of the great green reasons to shift your server situation to the cloud.
Utilisation to feel good about
Most of the time, you’re probably not using your server’s full-capacity–but you need it there, just in case of a spike in demand. With cloud-based services, high utilisation rates are the norm. Server capacity is shared between businesses, known as multi-tenancy. And dynamic provisioning means resources are allocated to match demand, so machines don’t sit idle, draining power for no reason. This operational efficiency ensures fewer machines are required and less energy goes to waste.
Servers near the source
Most organisations don’t have much choice when it comes to where they store their servers–that means they’re often far away from the facilities that power them. And lots of electrical energy gets lost in transmission as a result.
Data centers used to run cloud-based software tend to be built closer to their power source, and many even generate their own power or use waste heat to provide power for other uses, like one in Oslo, which is powering 5,000 homes.
Running on renewables
Public cloud data centers are making a swift shift to renewable energy sources to power their operations, including solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal. The high consolidated demand for electricity by a larger data center, gives it greater buying power for renewable energy.
Some organisations are thinking bigger, strategically setting up their own renewable power plants nearby to support the needs of facilities, such as Apple’s wind and solar projects in Denmark–built for its nearby Viborg data center.
Cooler cooling methods
Servers get hot, which means even more energy is required to keep them cool. In-house cooling systems are expensive and energy-inefficient, but large data centers control temperatures on an industrial scale, with efficient layouts and purpose-built infrastructure, like Facebook’s evaporative cooling data centers. This access to the latest technology helps reduce the environmental impact of cooling systems.
And the future’s looking bright. Artificial intelligence company Deepmind is harnessing AI to improve energy efficiency of Google’s data centers by predicting energy consumption needs and controlling temperature using the most energy-efficient actions.
Doing work in the cloud, whether it’s signing documents digitally (rather than printing and posting) or holding video meetings (instead of flying colleagues around the world for a conference), results in dematerialisation–the replacement of high-carbon physical products with virtual equivalents. The more processes and experiences that take place on the cloud, the less energy-greedy hardware staff need to do their job efficiently too, and the less waste a business creates as a result.
Keeping emissions to a minimum
Small on-site servers and large data centers combined account for about 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions–a similar carbon footprint to the aviation industry. But if every business was to set up, run, and maintain its own on-site center for all its data and software needs, greenhouse gas emissions would be even higher. That’s because you have to factor in the raw materials, factory assembly, transport, equipment use, and the emissions from equipment disposal. Working in the cloud can significantly reduce per-user carbon footprint especially for smaller businesses.
The cost saving on energy use alone might be reason enough to migrate your needs to the cloud – from software and databases to servers and networking needs. But embracing cloud computing is about more than reducing costs, safely storing data, and increasing process efficiency. The environmental benefits are hard to ignore. If how to cut energy use and carbon emissions are big questions at your organisation, then switching to a public cloud data center or using more cloud-based services might be the answers you’re looking for.
Could cloud sustainability be the answer?
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