Think of energy like any other material used to make something, with a computer as the factory. Just as a factory uses metal, parts, or glue to create something, computers use energy to create, process, or store data. This data has value to the company, so electricity should be an identifiable component of the cost of goods sold. However, since the cost of electricity is spread like pennies across a wide range of uses, it appears to be too small to count. Further, the cost of collecting individual device usage statistics would be unwieldy and too expensive to be practical.
True, each individual cost is small, but the aggregate cost is high. The problem is the disconnection between the person using the material (electricity) and the person paying the bill. When you shop for a new car, do you look at the vehicle's miles per gallon rating, or just buy the one whose shape appeals to you the most? If costs are important to you—as they are in business—then the miles per gallon rating is a key factor. However, if the fuel is free, then the equipment's efficiency becomes irrelevant to you.
So, idea number one is to begin thinking about electricity as a material that is consumed by the data center and the office desktop computers. Electricity is essential to complete our daily work. Therefore, it is just the cost of doing business. This is true. However, the issue is not that electricity is used, but rather how much is wasted.
Think back to the factory example. What if your factory purchased raw materials to make a product for retail sale, and 75% of the purchased material was scrapped—thrown away unused? How long could your company afford this? That means three out of every four components purchased were waste? That is how much electricity a desktop computer that is left on all of the time wastes per year. Electricity cannot be stored. It is consumed by equipment and the wattmeter is running, but no useful work was done for the money. Are you concerned yet?
How about another example? Have you ever walked into an office that was packed tight with boxes of files? These containers full of paper took up floor space (figure what you pay per square foot), restricted work, and were a fire hazard. What if the paper is moved out, but the files still exist on data center disk drives. Because managers and clerks insist that these files must be instantly available online, these disk drives often sit untouched and spin and spin and spin around the clock, even on holidays. In addition, they need to be cooled and, then, there is the expense of hard ware maintenance. In addition, there are the back-up tapes created of the data on these storage drives. How much would you pay per year to store these files off-line for occasional use? Remember the disconnect between the people creating the equipment and the ones who pay the bills. The same holds true with the expense of backup media.
So, you see, there is more to Green Technologies than just flipping off the power switch. There may be significant opportunities for savings in an organization—without any impact on customer service. How can you resist such a promise! Again the topic is easy to understand—use less electricity. But how!
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