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Cloud computing has flourished within the last few years and it has introduced numerous benefits to both businesses and the environment, simultaneously. The cloud has proven that not only can it help reduce the amount of energy that an organisation consumes, but also help to reduce carbon emissions.

Cloud computing can make a big impact on promoting a greener world if it’s approached strategically. This particular benefit is extremely important, but not yet widely recognised. According to
GreenBiz Group, 90% of companies around the world are moving toward sustainability. Large organisations can cut their energy use and carbon emissions by 30-60% in the cloud, and that number moves up to 60-90% for SMBs.

Cloud is enabling the transition to sustainable business, and may just be that “green” alternative we’ve all been searching for.

Sustainability as a Core Business Value

Nicely phrased by The Guardian, “real sustainability efforts are core business efforts…they can help a company raise its game and perform better in all kinds of ways.” Sustainability is becoming a core value for many organisations, and it can impact their success. For example Nike now tracks its suppliers on a huge range of metrics, including quality, timeliness, cost, and guess what? Sustainability. If a supplier falters for too long on maintaining sustainability, the consequence is fewer orders from Nike. Suppliers can’t afford to lose this business, and the result is that more of them are hitting their sustainability mark. It’s all a cycle, and today more than ever, sustainability and business strategy are working hand-in hand.

What makes the cloud green?

Moving to the cloud has benefits on its own, like simplicity, efficiency, easier management, etc. Those benefits should be convincing enough. The added benefit of having a “green” environment when it comes to your IT may be that extra little incentive to move you to the next generation of computing and IT management. It’s important to remember that while planting trees once a year is an exceptional way to contribute to a sustainable world, moving to an environment that will give back to the Earth every single day of operation, well, that’s just unbeatable.

1. Virtualisation

With traditional computing, businesses manage a few servers up to hundreds of servers, depending on the size of the organisation. This is inefficient as it
leads to wasted energy and wasted physical equipment. Energy use is not customised to the needs of the organisation, and the hardware used needs to be constantly replaced or updated, which leaves behind a trail of physical excess.

The cloud is a major improvement on traditional computing because it has redesigned the way businesses operate. Rather than investing in too many resources, organisations can reduce the amount of energy used and the amount of hardware needed.

With the cloud, information is virtualised, eliminating the need for wasteful, in-house equipment. Businesses can operate through this virtual location, drastically reducing energy usage and the need for excessive physical equipment. Virtual workspaces are accessed over the Internet and physically housed in data centers that are more efficient and have multi-tenant capabilities.

2. Pay As You Go

Most cloud providers offer a Pay-As-You-Go option as a payment method for clients. With this method, users pay for cloud services similarly to how you pay your electricity or water bill – it’s based on usage. Your monthly prices depend on your monthly usage. It’s a simple model and allows businesses to remain in control of their spending. While this fact is often used to describe how businesses can save money, it also helps define why the cloud is a green option.

This payment model encourages more efficient business behavior, as businesses are more likely to consume only what they need and nothing more to keep costs low. Pay As You Go drives energy and
resource efficiencies simultaneously because users consume the computing resources only when they need them. This keeps energy usage low, prices low, and the impact on the environment low.

3. Shared Resources

With virtualisation as an option, cloud-based infrastructure allows a single server to run multiple networks at once. This is called multi-tenancy. This allows providers to place multiple clients on one server so resources can be shared. Again, this is similar to how you might experience your electricity or water usage at home. You don’t own and manage the equipment that gives you these essential resources. Instead, you work with an outside company to share these resources with others and use them based on your needs. That’s how the multitenant cloud infrastructure works. It’s all about sharing resources.

Multi-tenancy has intrinsic green benefits. Less equipment is needed, allowing for a decrease in space used and waste created. Consequently, as less equipment is needed, less energy is used. Data Centres will consume less electricity when they don’t need to run as much physical equipment. This is a major improvement on traditional computing, which has every company running separate systems, exponentially increasing energy consumption.

Multi-tenancy doesn’t mean everyone can access your cloud environment or data – there are layers of security measures in place to protect against that. It simply means that you’re purchasing a piece of the pie, rather than the whole thing.

4. Equipment Efficiency

With traditional computing, it’s a catch 22 – businesses need more equipment to run their business and are therefore unable to purchase the most efficient hardware due to budget limitations. This leads to greater waste and energy consumption, as well as equipment that quickly becomes obsolete. As soon as organizations need to replace that equipment, the cycle begins all over again.

That’s why equipment efficiency is key. As businesses need less equipment to run their operations, they end up saving money in both power costs and hardware costs. This saved money allows organizations and data centers to upgrade to energy-saving equipment as technology improves. This has not always been an option, as organisations have not had the money to focus on efficient solutions.

5. Digital Operations

The business world today looks very different than it did ten years ago. Everything is moving online. Businesses are beginning to operate digitally rather than physically, leading to significantly decreased resource consumption. While some see the growth of technology as detrimental to the environment, these amazing changes are actually leading to a greener way of doing business. Think about the numerous businesses that solely operate online, and then think about the physical business locations and purchased equipment that have been avoided
due to this. What about the commuting that can be avoided because telecommuting is now possible? Or the paper saved because we’re storing documents electronically instead? Those are just a few ways that the move to the Internet is helping in efforts to be more environmentally efficient, but the list can go on. As technology advances, we will continue to discover new ways to go green while revolutionising business.

6. Transportation

Transportation and shipping leave big carbon footprints. Cloud computing can help reduce these by enabling businesses to share documents virtually, rather than through the mail. Additionally, remote working is becoming much easier and more common today, so talent that might be located far from the office can still work as efficiently and productively as employees located in the office. A long commute isn’t necessary. And for enterprises that regularly fly employees for face-toface meetings, cloud can introduce virtual meeting services that will save money, time and energy.

Modern Business and Sustainability

Today, smart organisations are thinking about sustainability and green solutions. Not only will they promote a better world, but this green focus can also enhance a business’ reputation with customers who might be concerned with sustainability. By digitising necessary functions and lowering emissions overall with help from the cloud, businesses can start making the move toward sustainability. Of course, the cloud isn’t the only step that should be taken, but it’s a good way to get started.

Today, businesses are implementing sustainability into their overall organisational culture. 40% of surveyed organizations are building sustainable business principles into corporate training programs or engaging employees across a variety of roles, from the front office to the manufacturing floor. (Ceres)

Smart 2020 found that within the next five years, information technology-enabled energy efficiency will translate into approximately $946.5 billion worth of cost savings. Saving green while going green? Cloud computing really is a win-win. Businesses can reduce their carbon footprint while also cutting down on expenses, increasing operational efficiency, and experiencing modern technology solutions.