employee using modern office printer to email a document

Five hidden (energy) costs of your IT

The right IT decisions can play a crucial role in cutting an organization’s energy costs. See how.

Technology is the backbone of every organization today. From computers to back-end infrastructure, all of the technology needed for day-to-day operations can use a lot of energy.

IT managers know that upgrades can save time, money and even space in many workplaces, but getting buy-in from upper management to upgrade can be challenging. However, showing the energy-saving potential of certain technology upgrades or shifts is just one more way that the IT department can convince senior leadership of its potential to transform the organization for the better.

So, while your organization may have already started embracing energy-saving wins like upgrading lighting and HVAC, here are a few areas in which IT can also provide opportunities to save energy – and improve your bottom line.

Your desktops are looking old

Many large organizations today have moved towards making their workforce more mobile, but some are still relying on older computers. While it does take time and investment to roll out new technology upgrades, prioritizing a refresh can help offset costs in the long run.

Functional as they may be, older desktops in particular can be a bigger-than-necessary drain on your energy usage. Desktop computers typically use 60 to 200 watts to operate normally, while laptops use only 20 to 50 watts (even less if you take advantage of power-saving options).

Consider also opting for computers with less powerful graphics cards if your employees don't need them (for example, if most employees use their laptops mainly for word processing and email). That component is typically what uses up your computer’s battery faster.

Switching over to laptops also gives employees more mobility, so they can take advantage of working from home or off-site, helping your organization further reduce your day-to-day energy use.

You've got more printers than people

Okay, maybe not. But you still may have too many.
Printing and imaging equipment, such as copiers, are typically a staple of every business. At the same time, the rise of collaboration software that lets teams share and edit their documents all in one place, plus a growing desire to reduce paper, means you may not be printing as much as you did before.

Start by looking for individual printers or even departmental printers that are no longer necessary but may be wasting energy by remaining plugged in and powered on – and can be replaced with fewer printers that service more people.

Some employees, such as those on your finance or HR teams, might be worried about the security of their documents, which is a valid concern. A simple fix is to set up your printers with secure user access, so people need a personal code to pick up their documents. That way, you can protect information from falling into the wrong hands.

If you’re also seeing a lot of individual fax machines, scanners or other rarely used tech on desks, round them up for retirement.

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Your server closet is getting crowded

If you have server closets or a full server room within your organization, you likely have prime spots to save energy. You may have more physical servers than you need, which can increase your energy costs (both from having them plugged in, but also for cooling needs to keep all that heat-generating equipment running effectively).

Take inventory of all the servers your business is using to determine if you really need all of them, or if you can retire some and consolidate by moving some operations to third-party cloud providers instead. Some reports have actually suggested that up to 30 per cent of servers in data centres aren’t doing necessary work, so the same may be true within your own server room or closets.

When it comes to the specific hardware and software for enterprise servers, look to ENERGY STAR’s tips for finding efficient products and employing certain tech to help save.

Fewer servers means less networking equipment to drain energy. Less hardware also cuts down on your organization's e-waste, which is a big plus for your overall sustainability efforts.

Look at your power backup requirements, too. While business continuity is critical, you also may be using uninterruptible power source (UPS) equipment for areas of your operation that aren’t mission critical (in other words, they can be shut down and restarted without major disruption).

Regardless of how much tech you have, keep your server closets and rooms clean, cool and well-ventilated to keep equipment running more efficiently. Installing variable frequency drives on your cooling equipment can help, too, by ensuring you’re not providing more airflow than your IT hardware needs.

Your settings aren't optimized

Regardless of the models of your computers, be sure to take advantage of any power saving or "eco mode" features your computers, printers or other equipment may have.

Use a "display off" setting instead of screen saver option on your computers. Screensavers can actually prevent your computer from entering sleep mode, and consequently, use energy while you're away. Putting just one computer in sleep mode can save between $10 and $50 in energy costs over the course of a year.[1] Just think about what that could mean for a business.

Your IT policy isn't flexible

Many of us take actions at home that help us save energy, such as turning off power bars or shutting down our technology, but we don't necessarily make the same considerations at work. Set a clear policy around saving energy, including providing a checklist or reminders employees can look to often.

IT is a crucial function at any organization. Even if overhauling hardware and processes all at once isn't in the cards, keeping energy top-of-mind during your purchase cycles can ultimately help the whole business profit.


[1] Source: https://www.energystar.gov/products/low_carbon_it_campaign/put_your_computers_sleep