With companies worldwide facing increasing pressure to lower their carbon footprints, IT Departments are naturally being scrutinized for their intensive energy usage. Indeed, traditional IT infrastructure (on-site servers, desktop/tower computers, backup power sources, etc) comes with the burden of massive power requirements – and an inevitably harmful environmental impact. In South Africa, the need to move towards ‘cleaner’ and more energy efficient business operations is further intensified by the fragile state of power utility Eskom. Businesses have to operate under the assumption that load shedding could take place at any moment, and thereby need to explore ways of harnessing new, power savvy IT solutions that can keep employees online and working during outages. Also, given that the cost of electricity in South Africa is set to rise exponentially over the next several years, companies will have little choice but to pursue green (and highly cost effective) IT strategies. Already, when local companies engage with IT providers to implement new systems (or upgrade existing systems), they list ‘green IT’ and energy-saving strategies as a key requirement.
Innovative hardware meeting the challenge
Fortunately, local technology innovation is keeping pace with the global shift towards sustainable IT. In the realm of hardware, for one, South African organizations now have the option of replacing power hungry desktop computers with energy efficient mini-PCs such as the CloudGate Xs These types of devices are becoming widely available, and at highly accessible price points. For any organization pursuing a green IT strategy, there are numerous advantages associated with mini-PCs that almost immediately benefit the bottom line.
To begin with, due to their small size and lack of moving parts (most of them are passively cooled and therefore have no internal fans), they draw far less power than a conventional desktop computer. In some instances, this can be as much as 90% less. While the actual power usage of a mini-PC is dependent on the configuration of the device, it is usually around 15 Watts. The drastically reduced power usage of this computing solution thereby equates to a massive cost saving from an electricity consumption point of view. For large organisations with many end users, this can be nothing short of transformative.
Importantly, another major benefit is the amount of desk space that companies can save by using mini-PCs. These devices have a far smaller footprint than a typical desktop tower, and can easily be mounted onto the back of a screen. A business or organization can thereby reduce its office space requirement quite significantly – and embrace more agile, cost effective workplace design. Given their small size and incredibly light weight compared to bulky desktops, mini-PCs are also much easier implement and support. Unlike desktops and a lot of other electrical equipment, these devices are less vulnerable to power surges and spikes when load shedding and power failures occur.
Naturally, many would expect that green IT and cost saving solutions come at the expense of performance. Yet in the case of today’s mini-PCs, there is arguably no compromise.
Indeed, as the technology has advanced so too has the ability to pack more and more power into a smaller form factor. As a result, we are now at the point whereby a well-designed and well spec’d mini-PC is just as powerful – and sometimes even more so – than a desktop equivalent (certainly this holds when talking about the average home or office user!). Admittedly, a gap appears when you start catering for ‘power users’ who perform highly CPU or graphically intensive tasks e.g. Graphic Designers or 3D Animators. Here, the major limiting factor is the cooling: high end CPUs and GPUs generate an enormous amount of heat and require a lot of extra cooling (e.g. fans or water cooling). This demands intensive power and takes up a lot more real estate. That said, energy-saving technology is a fast developing space and it shouldn’t be long before mini-PCs can cater for ‘power users’ as well.
Embracing a ‘green’ mindset
For organizations across industries and sectors, embracing a green IT strategy has become paramount to long-term sustainability – not only from an operational perspective but also from a reputational point of view. As a result, leaders should encourage organizations to implement a culture of ‘green’ thinking, with the emphasis on reduced energy consumption and activities such as hardware recycling. From an e-waste point of view, smaller devices such as mini-PCs are easier to recycle. Without a doubt, opting for a green IT approach automatically places organizations on a path towards success and sustainability.