10 steps to a greener IT strategy

IT puts as much carbon into the atmosphere as the aviation industry.
Whether you are the IT manager in a small firm or are responsible for thousands of users' computing needs, there are simple steps you can take to make your IT greener. Graeme Pitts-Drake lists ten top tips

There are many ways to approach the issue of greening IT. But within this ten-step plan are suggestions that every company can, whatever their size, adopt and benefit from user base or IT budget. Some changes can be made today and some take planning and careful fore-thought. It is right that every organisation should decide on its own, tailored, approach. IT teams have long been accused of failing to align with the business needs of their organisations, and not being outward looking enough. The current challenge to businesses to reduce their carbon footprint is actually a huge opportunity for IT teams to take a leadership role in driving positive change and benefiting not only their enterprise but the environment too.

* Become energy aware
Install a meter to assess power usage. This will provide a benchmark against which to measure improvements. The mere arrival of a meter heralds a different way in thinking about energy. And, in nine out of ten situations, changes in working practices start to occur. For instance, meter users will see that their old CRT monitors are using three times as much energy as TFT screens would - quite apart from delivering a poorer visual experience. At present, few IT teams need to consider their energy requirements at all.

* Recruit users into the green team
Simple measures can be extremely effective in reducing consumption and saving significant amounts in utility bills. Ask your users to power-down their PCs and other devices at the end of the day at weekends, or when they're on holiday. Better still, use the functionality in your network management software to automate the process. Initiate an energy-aware culture, including specific policies, and communicate them energetically until they become habit. Of course, the possibilities are much wider than network attached devices, after all, vending machines, water coolers, chargers, adapters, etc could all be turned off at weekends and evenings too. But this falls outside the remit of the IT team, so we'll leave these areas aside.

* Use resources wisely
Consider moving to an automated asset management approach if you do not already have this. In addition to saving budget on unnecessary software licence and support contracts, the majority of users discover hardware and peripherals that are not being fully utilised. Reclaiming and recycling these forgotten items can ensure they are put to better use in the organisation and can save unnecessary expense.

* Consolidate or virtualise?
Server and storage virtualisation are top topics for most organisations as they bestow a range of business benefits. The approach also supports green initiatives as a single piece of hardware can take the load of several servers, thereby conserving resources and requiring less cooling and energy to run.

* Careful disposal
Once equipment has reached the end of its life cycle, ensure it is disposed of appropriately and according to the new Weee directive. If you are ordering new or replacement equipment check about energy efficiency, recycling and toxic elements and ask the supplier to ensure that they remove old equipment as part of the contract.

* Think once, think twice, think print
Wasting paper is still a huge issue that most offices have yet to crack. Create a policy to encourage users to reduce consumption by foregoing printing where possible, promoting double-side printing, and using black and white instead of colour where possible as well as buying recycled paper in the first place. Ensure that recycling procedures and facilities are in place for paper and print cartridges, and enlist the help of users to ensure this happens correctly.

* Working patterns
Flexible working patterns are not only valued by staff and supported by law, but can also help an organisation following a green path. Hot desking, home and remote working as well as the introduction of flexi-hours can all have a positive impact on required resources in terms of office space, heating/lighting, equipment etc. In almost all cases, IT's support of such initiatives is necessary to ensure success.

* Offer remote support
Offering remote support facilities to users, whether they are dispersed across the globe or a single building, will not only improve response times, user satisfaction and business performance but will positively impact resources; more support offered by fewer people in a quicker time with less travelling.

* Optimise network performance
Network management and monitoring can help networks' efficiency, and has a direct impact on business efficiency too. Smart network management tools can alert IT managers to potential issues before they become problems and avoid down-time and resource wastage.

* Pick partners with care
Pressure to improve standards starts with the consumer, so pick your IT partners with care. Ask them about their environmental credentials and let them know if this is important to you.

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