two employees inspecting IT systems at a data center

Upgrading your enterprise tech? Save energy while you're at it

Get our primer on keeping energy efficiency in mind with IT purchase decisions.

With technology such a central part of organizations today, IT decision makers play a critical role in how competitive and efficient your business can be.
Among Canadian chief information officers (CIOs), budgets are increasing.1 Whether your organization’s IT spending is on day-to-day business needs or transformative innovation like artificial intelligence, all technology requires some level of energy to run.
Depending on what systems you already have in place, you may have some big opportunities to save energy, and money, through your IT department.

Start with your people

Embracing energy efficiency requires paying attention to behaviour. IT decisions are really about people, so take stock of what they actually need and want.
Let's say your company has a sales team that's constantly on-the-go. If they all have their own desktop monitors, printers and phones plugged in all the time in an office they only use 20 per cent of the time, consider paring things down. Chances are, they won't be missed.
When the buying cycle comes around again, you may find you need less than you've traditionally had.

Look out for labels

Just like home appliances, like fridges and dishwashers, business technology can be ENERGY STAR certified, which will help you reduce the amount of energy used in your office.
For example, ENERGY STAR-certified computers and monitors use up to 25 per cent less energy than standard models.2
ENERGY STAR-certified imaging equipment, such as printers, copiers and scanners use about 30 per cent less energy than standard models, while small network equipment, like modems and routers, use 20 per cent less energy. Voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones (phones connected to the internet), meanwhile, use 40 per cent less energy and can power down at night.
Another label you can look for with IT equipment is EPEAT, a standard set by the Green Electronics Council, which evaluates the entire lifecycle of certain technology including servers, computers, imaging equipment and mobile phones (including whether their manufacturing processes are energy efficient).3

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Consider outsourcing to save

Having servers on premise, in either server closets or a larger server room in the building, means you've got hardware plugged in and using energy.
Like the technologies mentioned above, enterprise servers can also be ENERGY STAR-certified and on average be 30 per cent more efficient than standard ones.4 ENERGY STAR has a comprehensive guide outlining the key factors to look at when purchasing servers (and also large network equipment) for energy efficiency. 

If you’re moving to cloud or managed external servers, keep in mind that there’s also an energy reduction benefit. South of the border, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Northwestern University undertook a study back in 2013 to find out more about the energy-saving potential of cloud technology.5
The researchers found that by moving the common software that 86 million U.S. workers use (such as email and productivity tools like word processors) from local computer systems to centralized cloud services could cut energy use by 87 per cent, or 23 billion kWh – enough to power Los Angeles for a year.
That may be a dramatic example, but even scaling that down to the organizational level shows there's likely energy-saving potential in moving some of your operations to the public cloud.
Whatever your organization's priorities, keeping energy efficiency in mind with your day-to-day IT operations is sure to give you more time, and money, to put towards innovation.