How to boost energy efficiency in web hosting

Data center server room lit with green lights
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Tomasz Wozniak)

Energy is the talk of the town and for good reason too. Rising prices and the looming climate threat means reducing energy consumption is creeping up priority lists for businesses and individuals alike. With data centers estimated to account for 1% of the world’s total energy consumption, websites have their part to play in this conversation. 

Performance and aesthetic will likely always trump other website priorities. After all, if a site doesn’t serve its purpose and appeal to the end user then what’s the point? But that’s not to say that energy consumption should be swept under the carpet. 

Of course, data centers hold a huge share of this responsibility. But website owners should be aware of energy saving factors and consider these when choosing or switching web hosting and website builder providers. We need to move away from energy guzzling solutions to a situation where more efficient, greener choices are the norm and not a sacrifice of budget or performance. 

Keeping check on capacity 

You shouldn’t be burying your head in the sand when it comes to excess capacity. There will of course always be a need for flexibility in your infrastructure, allowing for spikes in traffic and a consistent user experience. Yet this shouldn’t be an excuse for having consistently unused resources. 

Ensuring you have visibility of your resources and keeping track of your usage is a great place to start. Even if you’ve had your hosting service for years and it is working well for you, you may still be wasting significant resource without realizing it. 

Dedicated server hosting, for example, offer great levels of security and if your website needs all the capacity, they can be a great option to ensure performance. But if you are seeing that your site is rarely using all the available resources of your server, you should consider a change. Cloud hosting offers a great, more energy efficient, alternative if this is the case. 

Rather than paying for the entire machine and the energy that’s needed to power it, in the cloud data will be stored across a number of servers that could be spread across locations. You can easily scale up and down the capacity you need, so if you know website visits are likely to increase tomorrow you buy more capacity to meet that. Good providers will allow you to do this in your dashboard making it an easy choice. 

Monitoring how much of your server capacity you actually use and understanding when this may spike over the course of the day, week or even year, will allow you to better optimize how much resource you actually need. This in turn optimises the energy your site consumes, all while saving you some money. 

Understanding data center creds 

To a certain extent, energy consumption associated with hosting is at the mercy of colocation and data center operators. In the industry, there are moves towards making data centers more efficient, greener environments and if website owners want to cut their energy consumption, they should be tuned in to how their chosen data center runs. 

Inefficient data centers can easily use as much energy on non-computing processing, like cooling the center, as it can to actually power its servers. The market is working hard to solve this imbalance with developments in cutting edge immersion cooling solutions, but not all centres are as dedicated to introducing this new technology as others. Check out if your provider is making moves in this area or has any plans to soon. 

You may also be able to get information on how new your equipment is. Newer servers tend to have newer processors, which are increasingly being developed with performance per watt in mind. These processors can deliver more computation for every watt of power consumed. This not only means that the server can deliver more on less energy, but it will also cut the heat that the server produces and consequently reduce the energy used to cool the center. 

If you can’t further reduce the energy consumption of your website for whatever reason, however, you can control what sort of energy this is. There are data centers that run partly or wholly on renewable energy. Check on your provider’s website to see if this is part of their offering as it’s a quick win to help you do your part. 

Staying up to date with developments

There are new, exciting, improvements in this space popping up all the time. In recent years this included the rise of more efficient microservers. If you make sure to check in with industry advancements even once a year, you could arm yourself with the information needed to make the most energy-efficient decisions. 

My eye is firmly fixed on the rise of serverless platforms. These allow your software to automatically spin up the amount of needed infrastructure when the site is busy, and immediately spin down in a lull, meaning you only pay for the infrastructure you actually use. This instant scaling will take the energy saving qualities that the cloud can offer to the next level, all while making it easier for the website owner to save energy as it won’t require someone to log into the dashboard and make changes manually. These kinds of developments will only becoming increasingly relevant and more accessible in terms of cost over the coming years. 

Of course, changing hosting provider or package each year would be a time-consuming task. There are certain barriers to overcome, including the possibility that the website may experience some downtime as the data is physically moved to a new machine. However, it isn’t as hard as you may expect. As long as the end-user is made aware that between a few certain hours they may experience disruption, the decision to move to a more energy-efficient solution be greeted with celebration instead of frustration. If the move is right, then it’s important it’s done. 

Arming yourself with the visibility of resources and information on how your data is stored, will help you to make this choice. Data centers must keep working in the background to increase the availability of energy-saving solutions, and website owners should be sure to keep tabs on these credentials and the options out there if they are keen to reduce their consumption. Over time these changes will add up and energy efficiency can become the norm in web hosting.  

  • Need web hosting, but want to minimize any impact on the environment? These are the best green web hosting providers for the job.

Paul is the Director of Product Development at Fasthosts.