These days, more and more businesses are looking for ways to be more environmentally-friendly while cutting costs and still maintaining productivity. Some business have taken small steps such as implementing recycling programs and energy-saving features, while others have taken the battle to save the planet to a whole new level by turning to cloud virtualization.
In other words, businesses have taken their servers to the cloud, using virtualization software to divide the one (or more) physical servers into several virtual servers stored offsite. Each server runs on its own operating system, making it as completely functional as onsite physical servers.
In most cases the servers that handle the entire network are housed in a special room in the plant. The rooms are designed with special cooling and ventilation systems to ensure the machines don’t overheat and malfunction—and the entire area hums 24 hours a day. In most cases, the servers never shut down, meaning the server area consumes electricity and other resources, such as natural gas used to power cooling systems, at a constant rate.
Not only does this energy consumption cost businesses thousands each year, it is also harmful to the environment. The servers themselves create heat and emissions, as do the power plants that keep them operating—not to mention the resources that are actually consumed by the server center.
By switching to server virtualization, the need for a dedicated server area is virtually negated, allowing companies to save money and reduce their use of precious natural resources. In addition, by using the cloud, many businesses can actually reduce the amount of physical plant space they need. With fewer businesses needing large spaces, the amount of new construction required to meet demand is reduced—again reducing the overall use of natural resources.
Another trend in today’s business world is the notion of a flexible workspace. Cloud computing makes telecommuting or flexible work arrangements even more workable for businesses of all sizes. When servers are virtualized, employees can work from almost anywhere they have a reliable and secure connection. When employees can work from home or another location, they can reduce their carbon footprint by not wasting gas and releasing harmful emissions while sitting in rush hour traffic.
In addition, cloud computing actually cuts down on the need for a large percentage of business travel. With the ability to host meetings, conferences and more online, businesses can reduce their costs and impact on the environment by keeping employees in house and not on the road.
Of course, transitioning to the cloud presents some important considerations for any business and no matter how well-intentioned the switch is, without taking proper precautions, server virtualization could be disastrous.
Cloud security is of the utmost importance for any business. While in-house servers present a certain level of vulnerability to hacking or other breaches, storing all of your sensitive business information in the cloud presents a greater opportunity for unauthorized access. It’s up to the IT manager and executives to carefully scrutinize the security capabilities and protocols of any cloud vendor, paying close attention to the vendor’s encryption and segmentation protocols, who has access to your data and where the data is physically stored.
In addition, businesses need to develop strong internal security protocols and policies to protect the virtual servers from security breaches. Employees need to be trained on how to keep the cloud secure, access to the cloud needs to be carefully limited and monitored and mobile devices such as laptops and tablets need to be kept secure and up-to-date. Without these security measures, taking your server to the virtual realm could end up harming your organization—and negate any possible environmental and cost savings benefits you realized.
There is little debate that server virtualization is a positive step in the effort to make business more environmentally friendly. And the revolution has only begun, as companies are always looking for new and better ways to make the cloud a viable option and reduce carbon footprints . . . who knows what the future holds for virtual servers and other environmentally friendly IT products.
About the Author:
Cynthia Cameron is an environmental biologist and IT blogger from Santa Cruz, California. She is currently researching and writing a step-by-step guide to reducing corporate carbon footprints.