How cloud solutions can make your business greener

14th Sep 2021
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There are many benefits to utilising cloud computing within your business.

These include the day-to-day efficiency of your operations, cutting-edge cyber security capabilities, leaner in-house technological support and your bottom line.

But there’s another factor that will prove to be a benefit not just to you and your business, but to society as a whole too, the positive environmental impact of the cloud on the wider world.

Is cloud computing good for the environment?

We’re long past the point where it’s necessary to explain why having an environmentally friendly business model is something to aim for. This issue is front and centre for many businesses today.

However, businesses shouldn’t overlook the role that cloud technology can play in helping you develop this further. By burnishing these credentials, it can lead to a happier and more engaged workforce as well as being a selling point for a growing number of potential customers.

So how is cloud computing green?

It involves the sharing of services while maximising resources. Some of its environmental advantages are immediate, while other beneficial effects can follow.

These include:

The need for less hardware.

A reduction in the amount of power you need.

A more efficient cooling process.

A cut in the number of emissions.

Easier processes for remote working.

Minimising transport emissions from commuting.

Cut your energy use

To run your own server, you need a reliable and constant power supply alongside a cooling system that can be very energy-intensive.

The power required to run on-site data centres is vast. Analysis in 2018 found that about 1.8% of the annual energy consumption in the US was down to data centres.

But switching to a server in the cloud can dramatically improve your environmental footprint. Follow-up research found that moving commonly-used software to the cloud would cut that energy consumption by nearly 90%.

The benefits of dematerialisation

The environmental impact of a data centre starts long before it whirs into action. It starts from the moment when the materials required to build a server are mined and the hardware is built.

At the other end of the life cycle, there’s also the continual churn of equipment which needs replacing or updating, resulting in electronic waste.

Dematerialisation is the need for less hardware. It results in a smaller environmental impact, with fewer minerals and materials being used to make the equipment.

Slash your emissions

Meanwhile, it’s been estimated that cloud computing can cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a third for large companies, and up to 90% for small businesses.

Combining all these factors - reducing energy requirements, reducing hardware purchases and discards, and reducing emissions - it's easy to see how pooling your needs with those of other businesses is a much more efficient way to do things.

Don’t be idle

When you use the cloud, you are sharing resources with other businesses rather than having to run your own servers that spend a lot of time being underused.

Some estimates put cloud data centres operating at nearly 100% utilisation (in other words, they have very little unused capacity) while traditional enterprise data centres often operate at no more than 10% utilisation.

In the cloud, unused capacity is automatically directed towards demand elsewhere, rather than sitting there idly.

Cloud computing data centres that allocate resources to businesses in one area of the world during their working hours can then allocate resources to businesses elsewhere when they reach their working hours, rather than leaving servers in both areas severely underused for long stretches each day. It’s a much more efficient way of operating.

Keeping it cool

One of the key ways cloud computing cuts power consumption is in the way the data centres operate their cooling and venting systems.

Rather than having thousands of traditional data centres, with each needing their own cooling mechanisms, it’s all done on a single site. As well as reducing the cost per business, it results in a much smaller negative environmental impact per customer.

And instead of having a data centre at the physical location where you’re based, a cloud-computing data centre can be set up anywhere – including in countries with lower temperatures.

More ambient natural temperatures require less cooling, which is much more environmentally friendly.

Cloud-computing centres offer the latest cutting-edge technology, and as new ways of reducing their environmental footprint are introduced, it’s easier for these centres to adopt them than it would be for every traditional data centre to do so.

A shift to renewable fuels

Google is one business that now measures and publishes stats on how its data centres are powered, using something called a carbon-free energy percentage (CFE%).

The measurement represents the proportion of how much energy is obtained from carbon-free sources as opposed to fossil fuels. Google runs its data centres carbon-free more than half the time.

It’s much easier for a large cloud-computing data centre to develop such a metric and then buy in the necessary carbon-free energy than it would be for each individual business to do the same.

It can also be used as a selling point to potential customers, raising the environmental bar yet higher in the world of cloud computing.

The road less travelled

If all your employees live within walking or cycling distance of your office base, the impact of their daily commutes will be minimal.

Nevertheless, as your business grows, it's likely that at least some of your staff will need some other form of transportation to get to work, which is not so green - particularly if their transportation is powered by fossil fuels.

Cloud computing makes it easier for your staff to work remotely, thereby cutting the impact on the environment of travelling to work, with less fuel being used and fewer emissions being chucked back into the atmosphere.

As long as they have a reliable internet connection, many people’s work can be done from anywhere using the Cloud. And even those places that suffer from unreliable connectivity could soon see an improvement thanks to the rollout of 5G technology.

Is green computing expensive for businesses?

The environmental benefits of cloud technology are significant and substantial, and they can play their part within your wider business commitment to sustainability and being green.

These benefits sit alongside some of the many other advantages you can enjoy by using our cloud services, including enhanced security, disaster-recovery support and more efficient operations.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, either – and don’t forget that you are also saving on the investment, running costs and maintenance required to run your own servers.

Our cloud-based business management software, and cloud-based financial solution, can deliver these benefits for you, helping your bottom line as well as helping the planet.