Put office energy hogs on a diet: PC power management is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to green IT.Faced with rising energy costs and green initiatives, enterprises are challenged to find ways to become more energy efficient. While much of the IT industry has focused on data center energy efficiency, the world's more than 1 billion PCs are a significant source of energy use that can offer significant savings, without investing in expensive new hardware or complicated consolidation programs.
PCs and their monitors are energy hogs. The average PC consumes 600 kWh annually, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 400 kWh, a full two-thirds, of that electricity is wasted because PCs are operating at full power when no user is present.
Power-management solutions can lower costs by reducing total energy consumption, without affecting user productivity, yet this savings opportunity is overlooked in most organizations.
Power management is as simple as turning on power-saving features and turning off unused equipment. In recent years, power-saving features have been incorporated into all desktop and laptop computers. While most PCs have energy-saving settings, such as standby, hibernate and shutdown, more than 80 percent of PCs have their power-saving settings disabled. In addition, 40 percent of organizations do not even have a policy of advising users to turn off PCs at the end of the day, according to a recent Info-Tech study.
Software programs, like Verdiem's Surveyor, can measure, monitor and manage power consumption on network PCs and monitors. Network managers can configure and maintain PC power settings across distributed networks to automatically send PCs into low-power states as needed, saving an average of 200 kwh per PC annually. That adds up to a cost savings of $15 to $50 per PC annually, depending on local electricity rates.
While saving less than $50 per PC a year does not seem like much, the accrued savings can be dramatic. If a typical desktop computer uses $80 per year, an organization with 1,500 desktop units would be faced with a $120,000 power bill. Power-management features that reduce energy consumption by one-third would result in nearly $40,000 in savings. If all computers used power-management software, according to a recent report from HP and Intel, the global energy savings could be as much as $80 billion.
There are two basic methods of achieving significant power savings on PCs: Optimize power management settings, and power down machines when not in use.
General Electric's information technology managers are saving more than $2.5 million a year simply by activating Windows power-management features on the company's approximately 75,000 PCs. They have set the features to turn off monitors after 15 minutes of inactivity, turn off hard drives after 30 minutes, engage system standby after two hours and activate hibernation after three hours.
Even more energy savings, however, can arise from turning off computers. Yale University's facilities department realized that a simple way to save energy would be to turn off their computers at night instead of leaving them on 24/7. This move saves more than $40 per computer, or $4,700 per year. Their next step is to determine where this approach can be used on the rest of the campus. With more than 10,000 computers at Yale, the savings could be more than $400,000 annually.
"The savings from avoiding unnecessary power to idle monitors, processors and peripherals is compelling," says Tom Simmons, area vice president of federal systems at Citrix Systems, "Turning off even one PC can make a difference."
Check out The GreenTech Report at comnwes.com to review how leading Gigabit Ethernet switches fared in energy-efficiency test
Communications News' GreenTech column focuses on a variety of issues concerning the green IT movement. You can contact Associate Editor Denise DiRamio at firstname.lastname@example.org.