As we all are very well aware by now, the architecture behind the cloud consists of extremely complex and technically evolved data centers that serve to store, process and deliver information instantaneously over the Internet.
The cloud also allows users to access information that would have previously been stored locally; instead of being forced to access a critical file from a work computer, employees have access to all of the information they need from their favorite library or coffee show.
But with the convenience of such technology comes a price. How has the rapid adoption of cloud server hosting affected the state of our global climate? How can we, both IT professionals and average users, change the current downhill course into a more positive one?
The Industrial Revolution marked a critical turning point in history. Between 1760 and 1840, companies began transitioning from using hand production methods of creating products to the use of highly productive machines. Steam power and the improved efficiency of water power were also introduced during this time.
This evolution in the way workers manufactured products paved the road for new regulations in wages and worker conditions. In a similar fashion, the introduction of cloud computing solutions has changed the way IT vendors and business owners alike handle and provide their services.
The cloud and climate change.
There is absolutely no doubt that cloud computing is changing the way we do business and interact with our peers. The cloud is helping us innovate new products and ideas in an extremely convenient platform.
However, it is important to note that powering such technology can be costly: it is estimated that data centers are currently responsible for nearly 1.5 percent of global electricity use. This may seem like a small percentage in the grand scheme of things, but this percentage has steadily increased despite the economic slowdown, and there is no doubt that this number will increase exponentially over the years.
Many data centers have realized the environmental concern related to cloud computing and have adapted new methods of energy efficiency, such as machines that use low energy in extreme climates and chiller-‐less servers. ￼￼￼
￼Traditionally, data center operators tend to build their facilities where the energy is cheap, and with these lower costs comes dirtier methods. In fact, according to Greenpeace, more than half of all top recognized data centers rely on coal for the vast majority of their energy needs. Coal can be very dirty and has a less-‐than-‐ desirable reputation in regards to climate control.
Additionally, data center owners don’t often reveal their site locations; this helps to keep sensitive customer information secret but doesn’t help in making their carbon footprint information transparent.
Transparency in relation to local carbon impacts has become a critical factor in determining corporate climate responsibility, and over the next few years, companies will be held under increasing pressure to disclose more about their impact. If they can’t disclose such information, they will be expected to explain why.
When viewing the information technology as a whole, determining the carbon footprint and environmental responsibility can be incredibly complex due to the wide variety of sub-‐industries, from Internet marketing companies to telecommunication and service providers.
How providers and protect the environment.
One of the greatest opportunities for IT service providers to reduce their environmental footprint is by carefully analyzing possible site locations through the help of consultants and contractors.
The companies that are building data centers have an inherent responsibility to educate clients on the potential carbon impact they could face with each site location. Additionally, they can offer comprehensive insights and services to help clients find the most economical and environmentally friendly location.
Because data centers are by nature massive energy consumers, developers and center operators can aid in influencing local policymakers and utility companies to invest in more appropriate sustainable energy sources.
You may not know it, but countless companies already use this influence to their advantage by negotiating electricity prices with utility companies and engaging with local governments on a wide range of policy issues.
Data center operators need to understand the power of transparency. By reporting as much as possible in regards to carbon impacts through the Carbon Disclosure Project and clearly explaining what can and cannot be disclosed due to a sensitive nature, companies become more trusted by local businesses and even the general population. ￼￼ ￼
The more information companies are able to provide, the more tools researchers will have in order to establish general metrics and specific public policies that will, in the long term, improve incentives for investments in energy and carbon-‐efficient operations.
As new data centers are built due to overwhelming popularity over the coming years, the decisions that are made in the building process will prove critical for future generations.
Because the information technology industry is required to reinvent their systems every two or three years, it is very important for data center operators to continuously remind themselves the role of corporate responsibility in supporting sustainable development.
At Atlantic.Net, we have always made awareness of our climate impact a critical concern. To learn more about how we’re changing the notions of corporate responsibility and our cloud servers, give us a call today.
Atlantic.net also offers HIPAA compliant hosting solutions; learn more about our HIPAA Data Centers.