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Posted: July 30, 2009

Technology and its shades of green

How IT can help your business save money and respond to a changing marketplace

Michael Clark

Today, it’s not just environmental activists who care about the environment.  Sustainable living is quickly becoming a priority for consumers and businesses of all types.

Meanwhile, as environmental consciousness increases across the board, we find ourselves in a new and challenging economy.  Fortunately, doing what’s right for the business and what’s right for the planet don’t need to be mutually exclusive.  In fact, there are many IT solutions and practices that can help your business soften its environmental impact while saving money at the same time.

Unified communications

Businesses can leverage unified communications software solutions to reduce travel and mobilize employees.  UC bridges the divide between work done on the telephone and work done on the computer, while also providing a rich videoconferencing experience.  A recent Forrester study indicates that organizations can reduce travel by 10 percent to 30 percent and achieve greater than 500 percent return on investment with Microsoft’s UC solution.  Therefore, instead creating carbon output on the road or in the air, workers using UC can connect and collaborate from nearly any location.

Virtualization

Servers are like growing teenage boys – they have large appetites that easily can put a dent in your budget.  Servers devour energy, yet their workloads usually only take advantage of 15 percent of available computing power.  Furthermore, many businesses run multiple servers for separate programs – some that are used often, others less often, and waste a significant amount of available server power.

Virtualization, a computing technique that has been around since the 1960s but has only recently become practical, is becoming increasingly popular because of its potential to reduce a business’ IT energy usage by up to 90 percent.  Enabling businesses to run multiple operating systems on one machine, instead of on multiple servers that occupy valuable office space, virtualization helps companies harness unused server power while also reigning in their energy costs.

Kroll Factual Data of Loveland is a provider of information services to the mortgage industry and recently virtualized its data center, reducing its server count from 650 to 22. In addition to reducing energy usage by 90 percent, virtualization also has helped Kroll streamline and strengthen its business continuity plan, as well as respond more deftly to changing business demands.

When evaluating virtualization strategies for your business, look for flexible licensing options that will help you lower both acquisition and ongoing ownership costs.  Also, take time to review current licensing agreements; you may have rights to virtualization or other software that can lower your costs as well.

Power management

Your computer’s sleep, screensaver, hibernation and other features can be another doorway to considerable energy savings.  In fact, well-managed organizations can save almost $40,000 a year by making proper use of power management settings. What’s more, configuring 10 PCs with power management is also equal to taking one car off the road.

Windows Vista, with its 30 power management settings, has energy-saving features that are on by default. It also gives IT professionals multiple options for adjusting power management settings to optimize their business’ energy efficiency. Additionally, power management was an explicit focus in the development of Windows 7, which will extend the power management capabilities already available in Vista when it’s released this fall.

Paperless office

While it would be unusual for any office to go entirely “paper free,” using less paper is an easily attainable goal. For instance, you might be wasting valuable space every time you print a Word document or PowerPoint slide. Check out these templates for saving space, and therefore paper, on Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.  Also, think before you print and ask yourself if a hard copy of the document is essential, or if an electronic version would suffice.  Remember, you’ll save yourself a trip to the printer by opting for the digital copy!

New server technology also can help your business decrease its dependence on paper. The latest server solutions offer workflow capabilities that can manage, control and automate document processes, increasing efficiency and minimizing the need for frequent printing.

For instance, businesses can implement server software that moves paper-based form systems to electronic environments.  Not only will this help workers reduce the time and money spent mailing, faxing and printing business documents, it will also make the transfer of documents more secure. 

Finally, mobile technology can play a significant role in helping organizations go paperless. Workers at the University of Colorado Hospital, for example, use Wyse Thin Clients running the Windows XP Embedded operating system.  Instead of printing Health IT data, workers can turn to these devices for quick and secure access to Health IT data and save the hospital money by reducing its energy consumption.

Innovation has been, and will continue to be, a driving force in addressing our world’s environmental challenges.  By embracing innovations in technology that support sustainability, your business can save two kinds of green and be a leader in an increasingly environmentally-conscious marketplace.

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Michael Clark is regional general manager for Microsoft's Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) group in Denver. Go here for a free guide to starting a remote working program, technology tips and other valuable information.

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