A green data center is a data center that has been created with sustainability in mind. The focus of green data centers tends to be on energy efficiency. There are, however, often other sustainability issues to consider. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to what you need to know about green data centers.
There are three main reasons why organizations might be interested in implementing a green data center. These are to lower their costs, to lower their carbon footprint, and to engage with modern customers (and potential employees).
One of the defining features of a green data center is that it uses resources with maximum efficiency. The most obvious example of this is energy. Green data centers will aim to be as energy efficient as possible. What’s more, they may have strategies for generating at least some of the energy they need themselves from renewable sources.
This means that a green data center tends to have lower running costs than an equivalent regular data center. In fact, the difference can be substantial. For example, if a green data center runs energy-efficient infrastructure, it will generate less heat. This means that it will need less cooling. This will make it even more energy-efficient.
Where a green data center is able to implement strategies for creating its own energy from renewable sources (e.g. solar panels), the savings are even greater. It also has additional protection from any issues that affect the regular mains supply.
Many companies are now actively looking for ways to lowering their carbon footprint. There are several reasons why they would want to do this. Realistically, one of them is likely to be to get ahead of potential (or actual) regulatory pressure.
Governments around the world have shown themselves increasingly willing to push businesses (and individuals) towards more sustainable behaviors. They are generally doing this through a combination of rewards and sanctions.
For example, they offer tax credits to help offset the cost of investing in more sustainable technologies. At the same time, they levy sanctions on businesses (and people) that continue to pump out high levels of carbon.
Often these sanctions come in the form of “sin taxes”. These can bite into a company’s bottom line and/or force them to increase prices. With larger businesses, governments can also leverage government contracts as a bargaining chip.
It’s not just governments that are putting businesses under pressure to clean up their act (literally). Modern customers (and potential employees) are too. It’s highly unlikely that any business is large enough to ignore individual consumers. Even if a business does not sell to consumers itself, it will sell to businesses that do.
For smaller businesses, pressure from customers and potential employees can be more significant than pressure from governments. Smaller businesses may not meet the threshold to qualify either for significant tax credits or government contracts. Likewise, they may not have to pay significant penalties (yet). They do, however, most certainly have to answer to their consumers.
It can be a lot easier to create a brand new green data center than to retrofit an existing data center to the point where it can be considered a green data center. With that said, it can certainly be worth updating existing data centers. This can help you to get maximum value from your investment. Here are the key points you should look at.
Actively look for ways to use the actual design of the building to promote sustainability. For example, include landscaping in the exterior. This will help to offset any carbon you do produce. It can also provide an extra element of security. For example, it can help to camouflage a building or create subtle but effective barriers.
Ensure that all construction processes are undertaken in as sustainable a way as possible. This will probably require you to do extensive due diligence on your contractor and their supply chain.
All of the technology in a green data center should be as energy-efficient as possible. This means not just the computing resources but also the building facilities. For example, you should invest in low-energy lighting. You should also try to have a method of producing clean energy on-site (e.g. solar panels).
Data centers often use a lot of water. For example, water is often used for cooling. It will also be required by human staff. Again, try to use it efficiently and, hence, sustainably.
Running a green data center requires more than creating a green building. It requires thinking about how you do what you do in that building. That starts with thinking about how people actually get to it in the first place. For security reasons, data centers are often only practically accessible by personal vehicles. You could, however, look at ways to make this greener. For example, could you encourage the use of electric vehicles?
Even the smallest steps can add up to a big difference over time. For example, most data centers still use paper for office purposes. This requires a lot of water and chemicals to manufacture. Ideally, therefore, you’ll eliminate paper as much as possible. When you must use it, you’ll try to use recycled paper.
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