The benefits of the cloud go far beyond cost and efficiency – it can also have a major impact on a small business owner’s carbon footprint.
With the cost of living continuing to rise, the fear of load-shedding hanging over businesses like Damocles’ sword and the increasing realisation that climate change is the major threat of the 21st Century, there has never been a better time for businesses to consider going ‘green’.
In particular, small business owners need to understand the benefits of embracing more sustainable ways of operating. Such an approach is made all the more simple by the fact that technology is also evolving to meet this shift towards green business, meaning that choosing the sustainable option is no longer necessarily the more expensive one. In fact, there are numerous eco-friendly measures businesses can take that actually reduce operational costs.
According to Xavier Nel, head of product at CloudGate, probably the most effective of these are for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to embrace the cloud. This can serve as the most accessible initial step for any SME seeking to reduce costs and become more environmentally sustainable at the same time.
“The most crucial categories of cloud services available for these SMEs are: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). With these services, because the data and applications are hosted remotely, it takes away the usual cost and burden of acquiring and installing hardware and software, along with the required maintenance. Furthermore, remote services also allow users to eliminate the space and energy requirements of on-site servers and hardware,” says Nel.
“Often, those SMEs that do run their own environments find that their average server utilisation rates sit at only around 10%, which is highly inefficient and results in a much bigger cost from both an overhead and carbon footprint perspective than they should otherwise. On the other hand, utilisation rates within the cloud are closer to around 70%, since shared data centres are able to employ fewer machines to get the same equivalent capacity.”
In addition, Nel adds, cloud providers are well-positioned to take advantage of more efficient layouts – such as rack-first, where the number of servers per rack is chosen first and then the facility is designed around this – to help control temperature and humidity levels, thereby ensuring the servers always run at peak performance. Moreover, cloud providers also have the resources to allow them to upgrade to energy-saving equipment and building systems, something an SME is far less likely to be able to manage since survival, rather than efficiency, is often the main business focus.
“Studies focusing on the environmental impacts of business applications through customer data centres compared to cloud ones have found that cloud-based operations reduced carbon emissions by an average of 90% or more for small businesses. This makes the business more energy-efficient – and therefore greener – while also saving the organisation money in the long run.”
“Of course, there are other beneficial aspects to moving to the cloud, not the least of which is the ability to enable remote workers, since telecommuting also offers a number of positive environmental benefits.”
The most obvious of these, suggests Nel is the simple fact that telecommuting means not having to actually travel into work, which means significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. When it comes to carbon footprints, Global Workforce Analytics indicates that working remotely may reduce greenhouse gas emissions by some 54 million tons every year, which is the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road annually. And these estimates are only based on people working in this manner for half of the workweek.
Decreasing fossil fuel usage is an obvious goal of any sustainability drive, and the same study above suggests that such remote working will reduce oil consumption by up to 640 million barrels per annum, significantly improving the climate situation.
“For SMEs though, perhaps the most noticeable impact of remote working will be the diminished consumption of office resources, since fewer employees in the office means employers can cut down on everything from printer paper to the size of the office and the energy it uses.”
“Ultimately, it should be understood that the benefits of the Cloud to the SME market are not solely based on reduced costs and improved efficiencies. Instead, adopting the cloud means these businesses are not only more sustainable and eco-friendly but are also seen to be ‘doing their bit’ for the preservation of the planet, which boosts their public image in the eyes of their customers – a true win-win situation for all,” concludes Nel.