Three Rules for Managing PC Power Usage

Avoid power-saving myths, steer clear of vendor lies, and craft a realistic PC power-saving plan to reap the green benefits.

Nearly a third of tech's power usage comes from PCs and peripherals, according to a new Gartner report. How can companies stem this power flow? CIOs can follow a few simple rules for saving energy and reducing costs. For starters, they need to avoid falling for some of the power-saving myths swirling around PCs.

But the truth is that many CIO's are behind the curve when it comes to PC power usage. Forrester Research surveyed 91 IT professionals recently and found that more than half don't have a PC power management policy, although the majority of them are considering putting one in place.

Rule 1: Powering down really does save energy.


A popular myth is that powering down a PC doesn't save energy because it takes more power to start the darn thing up again. Forrester did the math last year and refuted this thinking: The average desktop draws 89 watts per hour, thus consuming 1.42kW during the night. The power surge from starting your PC is only a fraction of this amount.

Many PC power management policies are just hopeful reminders for users to power down their PCs and input certain power-saving settings. Like most end-user policies, it's a hit-and-miss proposition. Forrester recommends PC power-management software that offers some automation with provisioning, administration, power settings and reporting. Such tools are relatively inexpensive, adds Gartner, and often fully recover their cost.

Some IT pros counter that turning PCs off and on regularly will result in wear and tear on the machines. But Forrester, citing the Rocky Mountain Institute, debunks this claim: "Modern computers are designed to handle 40,000 on/off cycles before failure." Moreover, powering down PCs may improve the life of computers because this limits the use of fans and helps protect circuit boards from overheating.

Rule 2: Steer clear of vendor lies.


Vendor-provided figures for PC hardware draw just isn't reliable, says Gartner, which advises companies to use a simple power meter instead. Tracking electricity use, of course, has been a moving target since saving energy first appeared on a CIO's radar screen a few years ago.

Once you get a handle on your PC power usage, Gartner and Forrester recommend crafting a power-management policy. Gartner advises companies to create "a statement of enterprise intentions and link it to a set of goals and key performance indicators, such as increased energy efficiency, highest vendor environmental standards, and the exclusion of specific toxins by a given date."

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