Survey the green-tech landscape

Green computing is catching on in the business world, but some companies seek clearer incentives

Organizational leaders have absorbed the buzz surrounding green tech. Yet the allure of environmental stewardship alone isn't inspiring the majority of companies adopting greener practices. Rather, those all-important greenbacks -- in the form of lower energy bills, ROI, and tax breaks -- are driving many companies toward more eco-responsible, waste-reducing, sustainable IT initiatives.

Such are the key findings of InfoWorld's Green Computer Research Report. The survey, conducted by IDG Research Group, polled 358 IT professionals -- representing companies ranging from SMB to enterprise -- on technology solutions and practices that can reduce waste and associated costs by conserving energy and other resources. Technologies that fall into this "lean-tech" category include more energy-efficient PCs and servers, thin clients, and power-management products, as well as server and storage consolidation strategies and more efficient datacenter and server-room cooling.

Nearly three-quarters of the survey's respondents expressed at least some familiarity with green computing, which also encompasses technologies and strategies geared at reducing an organization's impact on the environment, such as the amount of harmful gasses it produces, the presence of toxic substances in wares bought or sold, and the quantity of reusable materials that end up in landfills. Here, green computing might include employing alternative energy, recycling PCs and purchasing refurbished ones, and implementing tools such as telepresence to reduce travel.

Going green to save green

Nearly 7 in 10 respondents have started down the green road, with 24 percent currently using or pilot-testing green computing solutions and 45 percent more in the planning stage of at least one initiative. Of the 17 percent who have no plans to implement a green solution in the next 12 months, 26 percent don't see an ROI in adopting green computing, 15 percent report that it is not in the budget, and another 15 percent state that their companies' energy costs are not high enough to justify the investment.

Environmental considerations are certainly stirring a lot of interest in going green. In fact, 86 percent of survey respondents said green computing is at least somewhat important to protecting the environment. Among those respondents who report that they are embracing green computing, however, the underlying motive appears to be protecting the bottom line more so than protecting Mother Nature: Almost three-quarters, 74 percent, of companies adopting green computing are doing so to reduce energy costs. Half are adopting such practices to extend useful life of hardware. Meanwhile, 31 percent are doing it to reduce harmful emissions attributed to global warming and health problems.

In regard to power bills, few companies, 24 percent, reported that their energy costs have increased over the past 12 months; 60 percent don't anticipate those costs will increase over the next three to five years. Still, as noted above, three-quarters are adopting green IT practices to lower power bills.

Energy costs alone aren't at the forefront of many a business leader's mind; there's also concern about future supply. Around two-thirds of the respondents agreed that the nation is facing an imminent power shortage and that energy-saving measures must be taken to ensure future business growth.

Baby steps

Right now, it looks as if companies are content to nibble at the low-hanging fruit of sustainable IT: the desktop. Currently, 76 percent of respondents are using LCD monitors instead of CRT, while 65 percent recycle hardware; 51 percent turn off computers, monitors, and printers when not in use; and 50 percent put PCs in sleep mode when not in operation.

Still, the number of companies that have implemented more complex and potentially costly datacenter- and server-room-oriented practices is by no means trivial. Nearly 41 percent are consolidating storage hardware, while 36 percent have embraced server or desktop virtualization. Moreover, the mandate to keep cool responsibly is having an effect, as nearly 30 percent of respondents said they are upgrading their cooling systems to increase efficiency and reduce impact on the environment.

Of the green-tech practices respondents intend to embrace in the next 12 months, a third plan to make the move to LCDs from CRTs. More than a quarter, 28 percent, anticipate purchasing only Energy Star-certified computers, monitors, and printers. Another 27 percent will implement hardware recycling practices, while 26 anticipate consolidating hardware storage. Interestingly, nearly 29 percent have no plans to adopt any new green-tech practices.

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Ted Samson

InfoWorld

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