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Green Hosting

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Which activity uses more energy—getting a contract, signing it and mailing it to your employer, or receiving it by email, signing it electronically and emailing it back?

Most of us would consider the paper option to be the more wasteful one. After all, we all know that paper is made of trees, and that the post office uses gas getting the letter to your house and back.

It's actually more complicated than that, though. If you send something electronically, you don't know how many copies of the document are made. For starters, let's assume that you have the original document on your computer, and another on your email server. Then you have the revised document on your computer, and another on your email server.

The HR department has four more copies of the same document, and the woman person who actually hired you might have another four on her computer. If you're counting, that's 12 copies of the same two documents. If you forwarded the contract to someone else to look over, that's another two copies, and if the company hiring you shared your documents with any of their its other employees, there are still other copies lingering out there. And, of course, if you or anyone else uses a Dropbox-like cloud backup service, there are still more copies out there.

So, what if there are 20 copies of the same document out there? Why does it matter for your energy consumption?

The answer should be obvious. Each computer that stores that document consumes power. While you can turn off your personal computer when you're not using it, the email and file servers that hold your documents never turn off. These power-hungry servers, housed in sever farms, or even or data centers, are spread throughout the world, consuming untold amounts of power. Depending on where these data centers are located, and how they get their power, your use of email to sign an application could actually cost more energy than just signing a printed copy and sending it through the mail.

Even if paper-and-post saves energy, it's not worth the inconvenience. Instead, many data centers, particularly website hosting companies, are looking for ways to save energy costs and the environment at the same time. By using a myriad of energy-saving practices, from purchasing renewable energy credits to locating server farms and data centers in places where clean energy is plentiful, web hosting companies can go green, helping the environment and their customers at the same time.

The Energy Costs of Data Centers

Whether you call them data centers, server farms, or computer clusters, the power-hungry networked computers that make the Internet work are an increasingly important part of our overall energy usage. According to a recent report issued by Greenpeace, data centers consume more than three percent of the electricity used in the United States, and are growing at a rate of 12 percent annually.

While data centers seem like a small part of our energy sector today, a decade from now they could be a significant consumer of energyresponsible for significant energy consumption. Until recently, the energy costs of data centers went unnoticed, as they were seen as too small to matter. But, inA an article published by the New York Times article published last year, though, points out that many data centers are most more wasteful than they realize. For example, some data centers use polluting diesel generators to keep their servers running when they lose power from the electrical grid.

Other data centers waste energy by continuing to provide serve computers that are rarely, if ever, used. According to the Times, some data centers waste as much as 90 percent of the energy they take off the grid.

Why are traditional data centers so wasteful? In part, it's because energy is cheap, Internet connections are cheaper, and servers, after you buy them, are free. As long as these things remain true, there is little incentive for traditional data centers, including hosting companies, to change their practices.

The Growth of Green Hosting

But not all is lost. Even major web companies are taking the environment, and their energy use, into account when they are setting up new data centers. Web hosting companies are even more nimble, as their small size and customer dedication allows them to offer services that save energy and the environment at the same time. This new trend in web hosting, which is usually called “Green green Hostinghosting,” emphasizes best practices that a web hosting company can adopt to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and contribute to a greener, cleaner future.

While there are hundreds of things a web hosting company can do to become greener, these each of these activities usually fall into one of three categories. First, web hosting companies adopt practices to make their data centers more energy energy-efficient. Second, web hosting companies adopt practices to make their workforces more energy efficient. Finally, web hosting companies adopt practices that make it easy for their customers to support green hosting. Together, these practices make green hosting possible. Here are just a few of the steps a hosting company can take to increase their its commitment to green hosting.

Making data centers more energy efficient.

As we've already establisheddiscussed, data centers can be extremely wasteful places. Old computers, bad power management, and inferior back-up plans can all add up to a data center that wastes much of the power it purchases, which means the company takes an environmental and financial hit. Setting up a data center is a difficult, length, y and expensive process, so every decision a company makes has impact on its energy use.

For starters, a web host can choose to locate its servers in a place that offers ideal operating conditions. Computer servers tend to run hot, so if they're in a warm climate you'll have to pay extra for air conditioning to keep them from breaking down. Because of this, many companies locate at least some of their servers in mild climates, where they don't need to pay extra just to keep their servers cool. Of course, the less energy a web host consumes just to cool their servers, the greener they are.

Next, web hosts need to consider from where the energy that powers their servers comes from. Unfortunately, even the largest data center isn't in the position to choose how the power that supplies it is made. But, by participating in programs like purchasing renewable energy credits, a web hosting company can nudge power utilities in the right direction. Each energy credit purchased is used to help wind farms and biomass facilities keep running while they develop technologies that will allow them to be competitive with fossil fuel plants. Wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power are all green energies that will reduce carbon-based pollution, the principal contributor to climate change.

Finally, web hosts can design its data centers to maximize efficiency. For example, the recent emphasis on cloud computing, in which servers work together to produce redundant and secure computing platforms, has made it possible to design data centers that maximize the use of each server. Instead of having dedicated servers that go mostly unused, cloud computing makes it possible to conserve resources so they can be used on an as-needed basis.

While we often think of green practices as being more expensive than the traditional way of doing business, in web hosting that's just not true. By thinking carefully about where its servers are located, what kind of power they use, and how they're designed, it's possible for a webhosting company to be green.

Make workforces more energy energy-efficient.

When you're choosing a web hosting company, you probably don't think much about how their its business practices affect their its commitment to green hosting. But green hosting is more than just using energy energy-efficient data centers. By adopting a few simple policies, web hosting companies can take a leading role in supporting workforces that are environmentally responsible.

First, web hosting companies can support a paperless office. Because they are already using energy efficient servers, converting to a paperless office is a net gain for the environment. By using services that allow for the electronic signing of contracts, seamless management of HR procedures, and instant communication between departments, web hosting companies can do their part to reduce reliance on non-renewable resources.

Second, web hosting companies can use a remote workforce. Much of the energy we consume on a daily basis is spent driving automobiles, and one of the reasons we drive is to get to work. With a remote workforce, people can work where they choose, whether it's at home, at a co-working space in their neighborhood, or even the local coffee shop. By supporting a remote workforce, a web hosting company allows people to save an hour or more daily commuting to work, which adds up to keeping dozens, even hundreds, of cars off the road.

Third, web hosting companies can support environmentally friendly policies by allowing employees to donate their time and money to causes they support. By giving employees paid time off to volunteer locally, a company can support green causes indirectly. Even better, a dollar-for-dollar matching policy for all donations allows employees to increase their impact.

Allow customers to support green hosting.

Finally, web hosting companies can go green just by letting their customers know what they're doing to encourage environmentally friendly practices. A few years ago, not many people even knew that data centers were a significant user of energy, let alone a potential source of pollution. As more people understand just how power hungry data centers really are, they will seek out green hosts to reduce their environmental impact.

Green hosting is not just a trend in web hosting, but a movement that will transform how we think of the data we store online and the websites that host them. By supporting green hosting at every level, from setting up data servers to managing employees, a web hosting company can do its part to reduce energy usage and encourage us all to embrace a more environmentally friendly future.

Sources:

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2011/Cool%20IT/dirty-data-report-greenpeace.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/technology/data-centers-waste-vast-amounts-of-energy-belying-industry-image.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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