It would be easy to adopt a fatalistic attitude in the wake of the IPCC’s report into climate change, that the changes necessary are too big for any individual or enterprise to tackle. But the lesson that should be learned is that while the crisis is dire, we can and should make every effort to limit our effects on the environment.
This includes hosting. We think of cloud computing (opens in new tab) as emission-less. Everything happens out of sight. But it actually isn't emission-less at all. Cloud computing now contributes to 2% of global CO2 emissions.
That might seem small, but another way to think about it is that for every 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions, one of those is from online hosting.
- We've compiled a list of the best green hosting (opens in new tab) providers
- These are the best small business web hosting (opens in new tab) services
- Also check out our roundup of the best managed web hosting (opens in new tab)
But there are reasons to embrace green hosting that go beyond just saving the planet.
One simple way to reduce emissions, though it’s not comprehensive, is to use money as a proxy: if you're spending money on something, it is most likely contributing to emissions.
Reducing spending can be a reasonable target for any business that wants to emit less. One way to approach this is through the use of high-density services.
High density services
One common feature of modern life is that we use tools that are designed for a far more powerful job. We commute or take short shopping trips in vehicles designed to travel way over the speed limit, deal with extreme off-road conditions, or move tonnes of stuff. We wear jackets that claim to deal with arctic temperatures when it starts to get a little autumnal, and sports gear for elite athletes when out for a light jog.
Computers are no different, whether it’s personal computing - a top-of-the-range gaming PC used to idly browse the web, say - or the equivalent in the enterprise. Computers often have boring lives given how powerful their processors are, the size of their storage, and their high-speed internet connections.
Often, they are given a small task that they only need to do part of the time, or with a fraction of their processing power. This unused computing power of deployed computers could be used more efficiently by increasing service density - simply put, using fewer computers to do the same tasks.
With hosting, service density is key to reducing the carbon footprint of any workload and the energy efficiency of a data center. Every application has resources allocated to it whenever it needs them but also when those resources are unused, they can be allocated to another application or service.
We’ve seen this work in action. In one case, a university was able to replace sites hosted on 2,000 devices, scattered across their university campus with dense, containerised hosting - creating an immediate 30% reduction on hosting costs.
Fewer computers in action being used means both saving money and cutting emissions by reducing energy use - not to mention reduced e-waste when components need to be replaced.
Moving green hosting up the agenda
Businesses are keen to do more to reduce the environmental impact, but green hosting is often quite far down the list of things that are being considered. Hosting is very much “out of sight”, unlike, for example, the waste that a business might produce.
Green hosting has the potential to be an easy win, reducing emissions and saving costs at the same time. Many businesses and organisations have built their IT in an ad-hoc and DIY manner, leading to inefficiencies - not just in density but in how IT and development teams work with this infrastructure.
Consolidation and higher density can mean increased efficiencies in these teams, too. There is also the opportunity to consolidate infrastructure into a single bill, and even move to a more efficient data center if this is possible - moving cloud to the Nordics can mean even greater savings in emissions.
When businesses are looking for ways to be more eco-friendly, whether it’s buying offsets, considering more hybrid working, or any number of disruptive or expensive options, it’s important to consider the quick wins.
Green hosting may be less visible than many other options, but it has the potential to both slash emissions and save money. Every business should consider it.
- Here is a list of the best web hosting (opens in new tab) providers on the market