Let’s get Green with our Data!

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According to an article on Thoughtworks, the amount of energy needed to power data centers roughly doubles every four years, and even in a best-case scenario, the ICT industry is likely to account for 8% of total electricity demand by 2030 — a 15-fold increase from 2010. And when it comes to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG or CO2e, hereafter referred to as carbon emissions), the ICT industry has contributed 2–6% consistently since 2007 — on par with the aviation industry

Although we are all aware of our impact on carbon emissions when it comes to flying, diesel cars, using fossil fuel – have you considered the cumulative impact of us all saving data willy-nilly on our cloud-based solutions?

It is easy to view something as abstract as the cloud as a fluffy, non-tangible thing floating around the internet, but the physical cloud infrastructure needs power – and the more storage we need, the more power we need, and the greater the impact on the environment.

Every action we do when online, is matched to a piece of data that has a corresponding piece of energy. Enormous physical data centres needed for Cloud solutions require round-the-clock electricity to power servers, storage and back-up equipment – electricity that’s produced by fossil fuel sources like coal, oil and natural gas. And as the amount of data increases, so too does the number of data centres and the power needed to run them.

Even you reading this on the internet creates data, and uses energy – leaving a browser open long enough can consume more energy and resources than a physical newspaper

Many of you would have been in data centres, or even smaller comms rooms, and heard all the fans and air-con going 24/7. Keeping this equipment from overheating is vital – but around 40% of the total energy used in data centres is to keep things cool.  (Interesting fact: Google opened a data centre in Hamina, Finland in 2009 to see if having your data centre in a cooler climate reduced energy costs. It did, and it also uses sea water from the Bay of Finland as part of its cooling system! How cool! Literally..)

Ok – so how does little old you, happily typing away on your laptop, taking photos with your phones, sending silly memes on emails to your mates, saving all those emails in your inbox, affect these numbers?

Well, the ITV gave us this interesting fact in a recent article

Taking unnecessary photos by people in the UK has helped add more than 300,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

The average UK adult takes almost 900 photos a year, with Britons admitting to taking an average of five pictures for every one they post online, according to a report by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Unwanted pictures alone contributed to over 355,000 tonnes of CO2 every year: the equivalent to the entire population of Chelmsford flying to Australia and back.

Then you have all the streaming of content through Netflix, Amazon, iPlayer, Disney+ using data – and over half of us admit we are not paying attention to what we were watching most of the time.

Who has their photos, emails or what have you backed up to some sort of cloud solution? Most of you probably. And when did you last go on to Google Photos or equivalent, to delete off a load of those automatically updated photos of your dinner from 2019 that you no longer need? Yeah, thought so – a while ago was it? Or possibly never.

Here at som3, it’s easy to think little old us can’t make that much of a difference to the massive pools of data out there but we want to do what we can.

Working with our CRM supplier Mercury, we are carrying out a big data cleanse. All those files and attachments that have been saved automatically over the years add up to a pretty big chunk of data storage space, and a lot of those files are also saved manually on our file structure and probably also sitting in people’s sent items. There is so much duplication we hadn’t even considered.

It’s a pretty big task as a lot has to be done manually – and it has also shown us some of our processes need to be changed to avoid this duplication and ensure we are as environmentally friendly as we can be. Mercury are proactively looking at solutions for all their customers to reduce data storage needs.

It has also shown us that some of these automatic saving functions designed to make our lives easier and stop us losing information by forgetting to log it actually double up storage most of the time.  Automation is great – but can come at an environmental price.

The news has recently been awash with information about climate change due to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and has made many of us thinks a little bit deeper about our individual impacts on the environment.

Even our MD Steve Morrisey has gone green in his latest car purchase – we look forward to seeing him driving around in his electric sports car and reminding him that 3 of the 7 largest files ever saved on our systems automatically were him sending pictures of cars to his contacts on email!

Final thought – next time you are playing about on your mobile while watching Netflix, maybe spend 10 minutes carrying out your own data cleanse of your photos in the cloud. Future generations will thank you