The Cloud and Your Carbon Footprint

cloud service providersSome time ago, retail stores carried almost all of their inventory right inside the building’s four walls. When you walked in the door and needed something and they sold it, it could be found somewhere in the store. Ultimately having that entire inventory on hand proved to be wasteful of energy and resources, much in the same way a typical small business’s data centers also operate in a way that is wasteful, especially when there are better options available. The choice to move that data to the cloud and have it managed by a cloud service provider would be much more efficient.

Retail stores had operated that way for a century or more. The system proved inherently wasteful, however, as some products were only sold during certain times of the year, like snow shovels. Also, some items were huge and too unwieldy to be moved around and properly put away—and didn’t sell very well. The solution was to reduce inventory by carrying only those items that were the best sellers, and move the rest to storage in a centrally located warehouse. This reduced overhead as the store could now be smaller, which used less electricity and required fewer employees to order and stock the now-deleted products. And, as the process became more and more specialized, soon everything was available to be sold from the warehouses directly, where the entire inventory was now stored.

This analogy is not unlike a typical small business and its data servers. There has been much talk in the past decade about a “carbon footprint”—how much energy and resources an individual, household, or corporation consumes. Generally speaking, a smaller carbon footprint also can mean less money wasted, as more efficient methods of operation are utilized.

Most in-house data centers are not very energy-efficient. Typically, a company’s servers are sitting idle about ninety percent of the time. And, computers and servers generate a lot of heat—in use or not—and they work best when they are in a cooler environment, so good temperature control is required. Because human beings don’t see very well in the dark, there also must be adequate lighting so the data centers’ operations can be monitored. Of course, this monitoring isn’t always automatic, it requires IT staff. Here, then, are at least two cash drains: the electricity for everything to work properly, and the cost of the IT staff to watch over, update and keep it all running.

In addition to the obvious advantages, cloud service provider (CSP) services offer more efficient methods to save you even more money. There are a couple of terms involving the services CSPs offer that you should be aware of when shopping for on to replace or supplement your data centers: