WHENEVER I speak to chief information officers or
technologists about sustainable IT strategies, their eyes glaze over.
In most people's minds, going green is still about
environmental activism, tree-hugging and warm fuzzy feelings as opposed to
being a strategy that adds real business and financial value.
The reality is that carbon reduction is only a small portion
of a broader subset of sustainability goals. Adopting energy efficient
principles has a hard, monetary payoff - with surprisingly little effort.
What IT waste is and isn't
The perception exists that IT waste is limited to outdated
hardware – old PC monitors, keyboards, cellphones, etc. But there are several
ways that IT operations waste time and money within an organisation which go
Most IT departments are given a "free ride" when
it comes to reducing their energy consumption or software costs.
There are three types of IT waste that I believe are
extremely prevalent in organisations today, and that should be eradicated:
• Inefficient PC power management
We recently conducted an analysis of one of the top four
banks in the country, and found that 98% of their PCs were left on overnight as
per instruction from their IT department.
This is quite common as IT departments conduct security
patching after hours and mistakenly believe that all PCs should be turned on at
all times for them to do so.
If 10 000 PCs are left on overnight, that means that 2 600
tonnes of CO2 is being released - unnecessarily. That translates into an
unnecessary electricity spend of R2m.
Simple tooling can shut PCs down and "wake them"
remotely without making any changes to network security whatsoever.
• Unnecessary/overused servers
Gartner has revealed that 12-14% of the world's servers
actually have no use whatsoever. When it comes to servers, most companies are
hesitant to take action to remove or optimise them.
The reality is that this is wasting energy, when it's easy
to actually identify and remove those servers and optimise the rest.
We are able to determine when servers are doing
"useful" work (eg the type done by employees in the course of the
day) and when they are busy with "housekeeping" computing (such as
antivirus or indexing checks) that are necessary but inefficient.
By forcing the server software into the lowest energy-using
state while still running, you can cut your data centre energy use by 12% with
no impact on performance. Large companies with thousands of servers can cut
Then there is the issue of distribution points. Large
geographically dispersed organisations (particularly banks and retailers) often
invest in huge server infrastructures that are extremely hard to maintain.
Staff have to be called out to install software on each
individual server at each individual branch. Why not replace secondary site
servers with a few centrally located servers?
This not only reduces your hardware spend, but your
maintenance and staff costs too, freeing your IT team up to do more within your
• Unused software
Most organisations have either unused software (installed on
PCs, but not needed or used) or shelfware (software that is purchased by never
deployed) in their organisation.
What they don't realise is that the maintenance costs for
this software can run between 15-20% of the licence fee.
Add to that the fact that we typically see between 20-40% of
software being installed remaining entirely unused at any given company, and
you're paying a hefty price tag for no reason whatsoever.
In the United States alone, they believe that this accounts
for $12.3bn in preventable and ongoing costs. Of course, not all software is
being installed with the consent of the IT department.
"Rogue" software, such as games and user
productivity software, also represents a reputational and security risk to
companies if it is not managed and controlled. It's important that companies
determine what they own, what they are actually using, and what they really
Efficient IT is not just about saving the world, but saving
the money that makes the world go round. By implementing unobtrusive software,
your IT department can not only contribute to your green status but also cut
*Tim James is the owner of sustainableIT and the distributor
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