Maximize Your IT Energy Efficiency to Save Money—and the Planet

| Guest Contributor

By Mark Aggar

Government budgets are a lot like family budgets these days: there’s barely enough money to go around. In our house, we flip the light switch off to save money and energy, and there’s no reason why governments can’t do the same.

glowHere are three ways that the public sector can “flip the switch” to reduce waste, get energy efficient, and save money. These strategies can not only reduce your energy expenditures but also potentially reduce your long-term operating expenses on buildings, transportation infrastructure, and IT equipment—three big areas where the savings keep piling up.

In the end, these strategies can lead to governments with smaller and more efficient office buildings, workforces that don’t need to travel or commute as much, and centralized, efficient data centers with highly utilized IT equipment. Let’s take a look.

Strategy #1: Make your buildings smart

Building efficiency is one of the biggest opportunities to save money. With this strategy, you use IT to diagnose energy-wasting problems—and prioritize fixes to maximize ROI. Even modern office buildings can be like energy sieves, venting tons of wasted heat into the atmosphere. This waste can be reduced significantly with smarter building-data analysis. My colleague, Michele Bedford Thistle, wrote about this in, “Smart buildings save energy and money,” a great summary of what Microsoft did to save millions through energy-efficient buildings.

Strategy #2: Enable a highly productive mobile workforce

A key part of this strategy is using IT to enable people to work remotely full- or part-time. This reduces your office space needs and saves the associated energy and money. The technology to support remote work is very mature and continually improving. For instance, when I use Microsoft Lync at home, I can answer my office phone and collaborate online as if I were in the office.
For folks who do commute to work (even occasionally), you can use IT to help them find faster, cheaper alternatives to driving alone. Cloud services such as Avego Ridesharing and SAP TwoGo can do the heavy lifting for employees, helping to fill vehicle seats easily.

Strategy #3: Consolidate applications to reduce servers

One of the best ways to waste money on air conditioning is to locate data centers in office buildings. A better strategy is to move your servers to efficient, dedicated data centers. This saves a lot of energy since you can lower your building’s AC at night if you don’t have to keep server rooms cool. It also reduces your IT costs with a low data center PUE. For an example from Microsoft, check out our video, “The OneLab Initiative: Building Environmentally Sustainable Development Labs.”

Without forklifting your existing IT infrastructure to dedicated data centers, the most impactful thing you can do to reduce IT costs is to increase server utilization. As I wrote when I returned from the Green Grid Forum, this means application consolidation onto shared infrastructure: private or public clouds where resources can be easily acquired and released to match the application’s demand.

While not the be-all, end-all of waste reduction, these strategies offer significant savings that could help you free up money to provide better citizen services, which is the whole point of government, right? Whatever your role in the public sector, If you’re in charge of spending taxpayer money, you should strongly consider including these three strategies in your government efficiency roadmap. Call me an optimist, but I think if government can learn to turn off an unused light once in awhile, there’s hope for my kids, too.

For more thorough analyses of these topics, read The IT Energy Efficiency Imperative, Microsoft’s Energy Smart Building Case Study, and The Telepresence Revolution.

This article was originally published at the OnGovernment blog.

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