The environmental benefits of cloud technology

The environmental benefits of cloud technology

I’ve seen DiCaprio on TV enough times now to know we all have a responsibility to be more sustainable.

If your organisation is serious about sustainability, it’s time to talk about cloud.

Consumers do care about sustainability. Over 40% of UK consumers keep environmental issues in mind when making a purchase apparently, but this is growing rapidly. Conscious consumers are now looking for ways to reduce their own carbon impact, but they’re also delving into organisations’ CSR policy and sustainability pledges to check what they are buying has been through environmental considerations. In 2021, it makes sense that customers naturally gravitate towards businesses that prioritise sustainability.

But “environmentally friendly” means so much more than single-use packaging and paper straws. Sustainability applies to service providers as well as product-focussed businesses. We’ve all had the email from HR about the recycling bins, but is a yoghurt pot in the wrong bin really going to change the world? Some would argue it’s all about taking things one step at a time. I can’t talk about yogurt pots, but I can talk about cloud technology.

Is cloud technology environmentally friendly?

Cloud technology may not be entirely environmentally friendly, but it’s certainly thought to be a much better option than individual businesses running on-premise systems.

Studies suggest that Microsoft cloud is over 90% more energy-efficient which can result in 98% lower carbon emissions compared to traditional data centres. The same study suggests large organisations can reduce per-user carbon footprints by 30% and small companies’ up to 90%. Let’s discuss why:

Cloud centres have up-to-date technology, which is often more energy-efficient

Energy-saving equipment can be expensive, which is why small businesses often don’t buy top-of-the-range technology. Cloud data centres are often in a better position to buy and use the latest tech, which invariably is more energy efficient.

According to recent Google research, “the amount of computing done in data centres increased by about 550 percent between 2010 and 2018, [but] the amount of energy consumed by data centres only grew by six percent during the same time period.” This suggests that, as the industry evolves and becomes even more cloud-centric, large data centres will continue to improve energy efficiency.  

Ensure peak performance without wasting energy on in-house resources

Cloud data centres are fit for purpose, with measures often put in place to provide energy efficient back-up power and cooling.

Most businesses won’t use the full capacity of their server, so there’s more chance of under-utilised hardware simply sitting there wasting energy. When you turn to the cloud your utilisation rate is much higher as server capacity is shared between businesses. That means there’s less overall energy wastage. 

Cloud data centres reduce wasteful energy because there’s less equipment

Fewer servers mean less power, which saves energy. Moving your business software to the cloud is more energy efficient as you no longer need electricity-guzzling physical products to allow you to access email or CRM systems.  Using virtual services requires less equipment, and thus less energy. A win-win for the environment and your electric bill.

Go paperless with cloud storage

Cloud-based technologies spell the end of printing, signing, scanning and storing. The process is reduced to just a couple of clicks. That means no more disposing of endless files and documents, which is wasteful and harmful to the environment.

Strong Power Usage Effectiveness ratio

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio divides the total power for the IT infrastructure by the total power used by your data centre. It is commonly used as a metric to demonstrate how green a data centre is. Basically, a low PUE score means a data centre is using most of its energy to power computation directly. It indicates power is being used in an efficient way, rather than splurged on things like cooling. Cloud computing often allows data centres to achieve a lower PUE ratio. 

Traditional data centres produce a lot of carbon emissions

Managing and processing data on a local server is significantly less eco-friendly, as these servers produce significant carbon emissions. Data centres account for a pretty hefty proportion of electricity consumption, so swapping them for a public cloud provider is a much better option for the planet (and your business).

Data centres may be located a long way from the facilities that power them, meaning electrical energy is transmitted over long distances. Cloud data centres have much greater control over location, so are often built in spots that are much closer to these power facilities.

Cloud computing enables agile working

Cloud-based technology helps employees to work anytime, anywhere. They’re no longer stuck to the same old desk, day after day. Reducing daily commutes (and the associated carbon emissions) can only be a good thing.

How to improve cloud technology sustainability

Becoming a carbon neutral business can be a challenge, but there are some key steps to help reduce carbon emissions and improve sustainability.

Power data centres with renewable energy

Some cloud data centres are beginning to power their operations with renewable energy, considerably reducing carbon footprint. Whether that’s solar, wind or hydropower, these renewable resources help large data centres stay green.

Offsetting carbon usage

There are many initiatives that could help companies and cloud data centres offset carbon usage, such as planting trees. Being mindful not to waste resources, from paper to electricity, can also help businesses to improve their carbon footprint.

Reducing electrical waste

Everyone wants the best. As soon as a new piece of technology becomes available, it’s out with the old and in with the new. This results in a colossal amount of electrical waste, which is something every organisation must consider when developing their sustainability strategy.

The very nature of cloud computing involves energy use. However, when compared to traditional data centre solutions, cloud really is the eco-friendlier option. More efficient, streamlined technology means your business can reduce its carbon footprint simply by converting to the cloud.