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Green-tech resolutions for 2009

Odds are your company is tightening its belt for the upcoming year, given the sad state of the economy. Fortunately as a member of the IT department, you have the opportunity to help in the effort — if you've resolved to do so.

Following are some New Year's resolutions to help your organization not only rein in energy waste but save money in the process. These resolutions shouldn't represent major changes to your IT operations, though they will require some time, and in some cases, an up-front monetary investment. However, the return on the time and money spent should prove worthwhile and perhaps help set the stage for more investments in efficiency down the road.

1. Implement PC power management. Consider investing in one of the numerous products out there designed to put inactive machines into low-power mode when they're not in use. After all, there's no good reason to leave your organization's computers and monitors on 24/7 if they're not doing any useful work. All it does is waste electricity, which your company ends up paying for. Don't let myths about PC power management dissuade you, either: For example, it's not bad for machines to be powered off and on regularly, and with today's PC power management solutions, it's still possible to rouse machines from slumber for patching and updating. How much do you stand to save? I've seen figures ranging from $25 to $75 per year per PC, which can add up depending on how many machines you have running.

2. Track down zombie servers. Plenty of companies have reaped the green benefits of combing the datacenter for servers that are providing no obvious benefit yet remain plugged in, drawing valuable watts and space. Periodic walks through the datacenter can help track down those machines — but some organizations are taking it a step further. At some companies, someone in IT will periodically track down users or department heads and ask them to justify the servers and other IT equipment they use. Some organizations, such as Microsoft, take it a step further by charging departments on a very granular level for the IT resources they use. The company says this approach has resulted in users being more proactive in reducing consumption because there's an obvious reward — more money in their budget — for doing so.

3. Turn up the datacenter heat. Increasing the set point temperature in your datacenter by just one measly degree can reduce energy consumption by 4 to 5 percent. Taking it a step further, raising the set point from 68F to 72F could save 15 to 20 percent of the cooling energy while still keeping air inlet temperatures well within computer manufacturer specifications. In fact, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) suggests setting the temperature in a modern datacenter at 78 degrees, which reaps even more savings.

4. Plug those holes. Plugging those holes in the floor is a widely recommended best practice. Leaks can result in cool air escaping, as well as hot spots. Holes and leaks can crop up in various places. One of the more common culprits are the cable holes under racks and cabinets. One approach is to plug the holes with either a do-it-yourself sealant, made from Masonite and duct tape, for example, or using a commercial product, such as KoldLok Brush Grommet. Placing blanking panels on all unused space in front of a rack call also promote efficient cooling.

5. Buy refurbished machines. Even during tough economic periods, you may need to replace or add new hardware, such as PCs, servers, routers, or storage devices. Satisfying as that new hardware smell may be, refurbished systems can be a great alternative. Unless your organization really and truly needs a top-of-the-line desktop or server, it's entirely possible that a machine from, say, a year or two ago will suit your requirements splendidly.

6. Cut paper waste. According to one figure I've seen, the average office worker wastes $85 per year on unnecessary printing. There are ways to nip that problem in the bud while sparing the lives of a few trees. For starters, you can set printers to print double-sided by default — and in black and white, to save even more. You could also take your efforts a step further by investing in products from companies like GreenPrint or Equitrac, which can give you even greater control over what comes out of the printer.

7. Measure, measure, measure. If one of your goals for the year is, indeed, to bolster energy efficiency in your datacenter, one of the smartest moves you can make is to measure your progress. Otherwise, how will you know your starting point or how much progress you've made? Surely you want to be able to point proudly at the impact your efforts have on your company's bottom line. That, of course, leads to a key question: What do I measure? Well, PUE (power usage effectiveness) or DCIE (datacenter infrastructure efficiency) are good places to start. Those are metrics devised by The Green Grid, intended to give organizations a sense of how much energy being consumed in the datacenter is making it into IT equipment to do actual work, as opposed to the those watts being consumed for power conversion, cooling, and other non-productive tasks.

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