Green data center – What makes it the next big thing in technology?

Published November 24, 2016   |   

Consumers and businesses rely on a ton of data. Most of this can be attributed to the technology we use in our daily lives. After all, just about everyone carries a smartphone on their person. Then there are our work and home computers, tablets, smart TVs, streaming devices and more.

As of 2016, there are 3.5 billion internet users worldwide, which is an increase from 2.21 billion in 2015. In just a year, the number of internet users increased by nearly one and a half billion, and all of them are consuming data.

The rise in data usage has helped to highlight the importance of data centers. Platforms like Netflix, Amazon or even Facebook, wouldn’t be possible without the data centers that drive them. But the same is true of the business world.

Businesses need data centers to serve their customers and employees. These centers power internal networks, websites, a point of sale systems and so much more.

Simply put, without data centers, we just wouldn’t be able to enjoy the technology we have today. However, in order to run, data centers must use a lot of power. In fact, the amount of energy data centers use increases on a daily basis because more and more people need to access them.

An Emerson study found that the average cost of running a data center increased by 38% between 2010 and 2016. That percentage only continues to climb.

This means even though data centers are necessary, they have extremely high operating costs in terms of money and energy usage.

The solution? Going Green

So, we’ve established data centers are expensive and use up a lot of energy. This is also bad for the environment, especially when there are so many in operation. Using more energy means burning more fossil fuels to generate it, and that means more emissions and fewer resources.

The solution — especially if we want to conserve energy and save money — is to go green.

A green data center is one that has been designed to minimize its energy footprint and environmental impact. Just like with any “green” technology, this means using environmentally-friendly materials and equipment in addition to decreasing traditional energy consumption.

Plus, a number of “green” friendly policies may be implemented. For instance, waste may be recycled or reused as applicable. Servers and hardware may be swapped out for more energy-efficient equipment. Hybrid or electric vehicles may be adopted to get around campus. Operating hours may be minimized or altered to adjust for energy savings. The list goes on.

Benefits of a green data center

If a green data center is able to achieve 53% annual energy savings — which means implementing a solar system capable of generating that much power — they can save anywhere from $125,000 to $170,000 annually in energy bills.

To be honest, though, cost savings are expected when deploying a solar energy system. The most important benefit, at least for data centers, is that green technology allows them to be more sustainable and reliable.

When a data center experiences downtime, whatever may be the cause, they hemorrhage money. Since 2010, the costs of experiencing downtime have increased by 81% to an average of $2,409,991 in 2015. Couple that with the fact that energy costs are rising, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The location also plays an important role in efficiency and sustainability. You cannot just pick up an existing data center and move it, of course, but it’s still worth considering — if your data center is already near water or a renewable energy source, you’re in great standing.

But the further away these resources are, the higher the operating costs are going to be, and the lower the sustainability rating is. Data centers in a remote location, for instance, are more susceptible to power issues, especially when they rely on a traditional power source.

Alternatively, a green data center in a remote location is completely viable. It has its own reliable power source and is more energy efficient. Its operating costs are much lower, too.

Green data centers also tend to be healthier and more comfortable for employees to work in as well.

How to Prepare for a Transition to Greener Facilities?

Going green is more of a process than a single action. You’ll need to implement several new policies and procedures to keep a low energy footprint. Not to mention, the current hardware — including servers and existing data — will need to be phased out for more efficient equipment.

In other words, it’s not something that just happens overnight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare beforehand. There are several things we can do that will make the transition much smoother:

  • Lower the energy footprint of your properties and buildings
  • Install sustainable landscaping on the property, such as trees that require less water to thrive
  • Opt for low-emission construction materials when possible
  • Implement a strict recycling policy, and try to create more environmentally-friendly waste
  • Use electric generators or equip backup generators with the proper emissions systems
  • Swap out gas vehicles with hybrid and electric ones to move around a property
  • Deploy more sustainable and energy-efficient air cooling and conditioning systems
  • Install low-power server technology

These are just a few examples of things we can do to prepare for a “green” transition. As long as we activate them when we have the opportunity, we’ll be well on our way.