Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Friendly?
Computing

Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Friendly?

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Yes, it is! And sustainable, too. But it comes with a catch. Fortunately, main cloud providers have assertive initiatives in place that other companies can learn from.

Cloud computing offers the benefits of cost-saving, security, mobility, and scalability, to name but a few. Yet an overlooked and highly valuable benefit is its potential to foster environmental friendliness in business operation. This alone can greatly help companies’ CSR and CSV goals and justify the outlay.

Cloud computing can reduce the use of resources such as paper, electricity, packing materials, and so much more.

Some of the world’s biggest IT companies have completely switched to renewable energy. The transition from traditional servers to cloud services has been steadily advancing for years, but it’s picking up pace incrementally.

It’s been predicted that by 2022, business software run on traditional servers will be half what it was in 2019, and will be 32% of enterprise applications.

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Benefits include a decreased carbon footprint and fewer emissions, and increased use of renewable energy. Overall, adopting cloud computing allows companies to run more efficient data centers while relying on natural resources as little as possible.

Cloud computing can reduce a company’s carbon footprint

Companies using cloud computing to reduce the amount of carbon released into the air by 88%. They’re also using 77% fewer servers and 84% less power than they were previously.

The software as a service (SaaS) boom has moved common applications from individual computers to the cloud, in part to cut down on the carbon footprint.

Documents can be viewed, and amended, online, eliminating the need to print out copies for multiple employees. Company accountants can maintain balance sheets in the cloud. Pages and sheets can be added and updated at any time.

Accessing and sharing stored information among employees is efficient. Cloud computing eliminates the need to print contracts. Technology, based in the cloud, makes it possible to sign contracts digitally using software like DocuSign. Even business cards can go virtual.

This is just the beginning of the ways in which companies are becoming environmentally friendly while also driving innovation.

Cloud computing increases the use of renewable energy sources

Cloud data centers often rely on renewable energy sources, making them environmentally friendly. Wind and solar power are taking the place of fossil fuel-based electricity.

Arcadia Power and Agile IT, for instance, partnered so their data centers and headquarters now operate under wind power. Using green energy as opposed to fossil fuels is becoming a common sustainability strategy.

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Saving resources is a driving force behind the shift to cloud-based centers. Thanks to technological advances, cloud centers are run in a more energy-efficient manner than physical data centers.

Cloud computing means shared data centers, which are run on fewer resources

Large companies that use a cloud server typically need 60% to 70% of the space on it. But smaller companies tend to use only 5% to 10%. This means more of them can use a single data center.

With fewer data centers needed, less equipment is needed for everyone to operate at full capacity. Small companies need the flexibility shared data centers provide.

These data centers are run in the public cloud and located near their source of power, so they need less overall energy to operate. Even though backup power sources are needed, the amount of wattage is significantly decreased.

Shared data centers can be kept at an ideal temperature while still using energy efficiently.

Public cloud servers can be placed anywhere renewable energy is available. Companies using public cloud run their operations at peak efficiency. This prevents them from taking up more space on the server than they need to.

Shared data centers are also scalable, so they can take on more servers if necessary. The cloud allows for resources to be allocated accordingly, so machines are only be powered when they need to be.

Traditional data centers power each machine constantly. Data centers represented only about 1% of global energy use. Cloud data centers can use specialized techniques such as virtualization, hot/cold aisles, and HVAC adjustments to optimize energy use.

Cloud computing indirectly decreases automobile emissions

A somewhat indirect effect of cloud computing is how it facilitates remote work, which cuts commutes, which in turn slashed automobile emissions.

Saving on gasoline usage and auto emissions also directly result in less air pollution, giving it an added environmental benefit that’s tangible in society.

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Remote employees themselves help companies run more efficiently. Fewer employees in the office equal fewer resources used (even down to the disposable paper cups and plastic stirrers for coffee). Companies can function with less office space.

Smaller offices naturally run on less heat and energy than larger offices. By condensing the workspace, companies can remain productive and be environmentally responsible at the same time.

How top cloud providers are going green

Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) actively publicizes its energy-efficiency aims. It’s launched wind and solar projects globally. The company seeks 100% renewable energy use by 2015. AWS was the biggest corporate buyer of renewables in 2020. AWS recently added projects in Virginia, Ohio, China, and Australia. These will add 615 MW of renewable capacity. Globally Amazon has 91 renewable energy projects as of May 2020, which grew to 127 by the end of the year.

Amazon also co-founded The Climate Pledge. This states its intent to go 100% carbon-free before the end of 2040. The company’s committed to being completely reliant on renewable energy by 2025.

Other plans include working toward completely carbon-free shipments of products. This is part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability. By 2025, it aims to have made it halfway to its goal.

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Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is helping to create sustainable data centers. It went carbon-neutral in 2012 and plans to go carbon negative before the end of 2030. Even now, Azure is working on being completely dependent on renewable energy by 2025, similar to AWS.

Thanks to its renewable energy certificates, Microsoft’s servers have been environmentally friendly for years now. Its data centers are now 60% powered by renewable electricity. By 2023, Microsoft plans to increase that number from 60% to 70%.

Google Cloud

Google has its own plans for going green. It struck agreements with utility companies to purchase all the power it needs. These will allow it to fund ongoing projects to create more renewable energy sources. The goal is to increase the number of renewable energy resources available to companies worldwide.

Every year, Google Cloud accounts for how much carbon it’s used. It calculates the renewable energy it purchased throughout the year. it also calculates the energy it used. Ideally, it wants these two calculations to be equal.

The plan is to use this information to completely power its data centers with renewable energy. To achieve this, it needs to use new technology to enable long-term storage of energy.

Machine learning is used to conserve energy in Google’s data centers. This makes it possible to control the temperature in each center. Using a weather algorithm, cooling systems are programmed to change room temperature instantly. The system can sense when the temperature has dropped. It then responds by giving off less energy.

A combination of solar and wind sources power the data centers. This is part of Google’s commitment to going carbon-free.

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Conclusion on cloud computing and the environment

For many reasons, cloud computing benefits the environment. It allows companies to save resources and run with increased efficiency.

The world’s environmental ecosystem is stronger and more secure, partly because of cloud computing. Using cloud servers means companies produce half the amount of carbon emissions they otherwise would.

Perhaps a failure thus far in cloud computing is its inability to translate its scientific benefits to society through intelligent scientific marketing and PR.

Those who know know. But how many out there can actually tell you why cloud computing is green? How many outside the tech world and C-suite really even know what cloud computing is and the hows and whys of adapting it? That remains a challenge.


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