PC Energy Use Still Unmanaged

Most companies lack PC power management programs, which means they're wasting energy and money.

Companies in the U.S and abroad remain resistant to power management schemes

Companies in the U.S and abroad remain resistant to power management schemes

Most IT shops aren't managing PC power use within their organizations, which means they're passing up big savings, especially in regions with high energy costs.

In a recent Forrester Research Inc. study of PC power management practices at large and midsize companies, only 13 per cent of 91 IT managers polled said that they had implemented wide-scale power management programs, while another 18 per cent said they had set up programs but not for all of their PCs.

The top reason cited for the low deployment rate was the fact that IT managers aren't responsible for technology energy costs, says Forrester analyst Doug Washburn.

The XP Factor

The survey results aren't surprising: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates estimates that no more than 10 per cent of all enterprise PCs in use have their power management capabilities turned on.

One reason for that may be skepticism about how much money can be saved per PC. Another may be the continued use of Windows XP. Windows Vista gives administrators the ability to natively manage power settings on PCs over a network, but XP does not. There are third-party tools available for that, however, including a free one from the EPA called EZ GPO.

In addition, managing electricity usage typically falls under the jurisdiction of facilities managers, such as Forrest Miller, director of support services for the Lake Washington School District in Redmond, Wash. Among other things, he's responsible for about 11,500 PCs' power utilization.

For the past several years, Miller has been using software from Seattle-based Verdiem Corp. to manage the school district's PC power consumption. The tool is set to put PCs into sleep mode after 20 minutes of inactivity, says Miller, whose IT department administers the software for him.

The Verdiem software costs Lake Washington US$25,000 annually under a three-year agreement. Miller says that the application has helped the district reduce power consumption by about 3.66 million kilowatt-hours per year, for an annual savings of about US$256,000, based on current electricity rates.

Miller says he views power management as an easy way for users to have a major impact on energy costs with minimal or no impact on work processes. He adds that he has yet to hear any complaints from employees about the program. "It would be interesting to me to know why people wouldn't do this," he says of PC power management in general.

Dollar Savings Vary

The amount of money saved might vary significantly by region, though. For instance, Washington state has relatively low power costs, in the range of 5 to 7 cents per kWh. Contrast that with states in the Northeast, such as Connecticut, where rates range from 14.25 cents to nearly 20 cents per kWh, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EPA estimates cost savings of $25 to $75 per PC annually if system standby or hibernation features are activated on machines.

Washburn says there are other reasons why PC power management tools aren't being deployed more widely. There are concerns about possible end-user backlash, uncertainties about the best approach and policies to put in place, and an inability to predict financial savings.

But only 9 per cent of the IT managers surveyed by Forrester said they had no interest at all in PC power management, while 48 per cent said they were considering the idea of setting up a program. Washburn says he thinks change is afoot. Even if IT managers don't own the energy budget at their companies, he says, "there is much more pressure to understand energy consumption."

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Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
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