Five tips for low-energy business computing

Energy efficiency isn't just for the data center. Here's how to save some greenbacks by powering down out front.

Multifunction printer devices, which combing copying, printing, scanning and fax, offer additional efficiencies, making consumables management easier and saving space as well as energy. Consolidating just two devices into a single machine, for example, cuts energy consumption by about 40%, according to HP. Terremark uses MFPs in conjunction with j2 Global Communications Inc.'s eFax service, which routes incoming faxes to an e-mail in-box instead of to a printer.

But while MFP sales are growing at double-digit rates, many businesses still have an array of printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines that remain largely unmanaged. "For every MFP out there, there are [still] six or seven printers," says IDC analyst Keith Kmetz. By 2011, however, IDC expects the ratio to be closer to one to three.

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution for energy-efficient computing, the best options will be those that complement the business by simplifying processes, making staff more efficient and serving the customer better, says Verizon Wireless' Waghray.

While green isn't necessarily the goal, he says, it is a means to those ends. The best way to begin, he says, is to "start to think about [green computing] as something that's pretty much part and parcel of what you're doing anyway."

Power savings at the network level

When it comes to networking, power savings are more difficult to come by. In other words, sleep mode doesn't help much when the network never sleeps.

"If you want [your] YouTube video to come up in three seconds or less," quips Robert Aldrich, a senior manager specializing in energy efficiency at Cisco Systems, "the switches moving those packets have to be in always-on ready mode."

But he sees that changing. "By this time next year, any end devices we sell will have some sort of power-efficiency mode. That's a big initiative for us," he says.

Voice over IP and power over Ethernet (PoE) have also increased upfront office power demands by pushing power consumption from a central PBX out onto the desktop. An IP phone adds about 15 watts of power to each cubicle -- which adds up when you have 1,000 or more users. The PoE-enabled switches in the wiring closet also use more power than non-PoE models do.

Overall, however, a native VoIP system typically consumes less power than the digital PBX system it replaces, Aldrich says.

To save energy, move data, not people

Energy-efficient computers are good, energy-efficient people are even better. A green office is about more than using energy-efficient equipment: The application of information technology to support teleconferencing and telework can make both people and businesses more efficient.

Several hundred people employed with Cox Communications Inc.'s call center this year began working four out of five days from home. Using a browser and their own home computers, remote staff access a suite of applications hosted on a Citrix Presentation Server back end.

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