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Powering down PCs: saving energy, money and carbon emissions

1st February 2012
Rhonda Ascierto, senior analyst, Ovum, says investing in PC power management solutions can be a cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption, and therefore operating costs.
The cost of electricity is rising, and for many organisations so too is their IT power bill. Growing expectations from shareholders and consumers to conduct business in an environmentally responsible manner are driving business leaders to consider sustainability initiatives of some sort. However, given the current state of the economy many organisations are reluctant to invest. But invest they should in PC power management (PCPM) solutions, which can be a cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption, and therefore operating costs.

Vendor estimates vary, but PCPM solutions can save organisations about £23 per computer per year just in computer power consumption. There may be additional savings in air conditioning because fewer powered-up computers will produce less heat. This typically equates to a 40 per cent reduction in PC power costs or 380 kilowatt hour per PC per year or 586 pounds of CO2 per user per year. 

In addition, the payback period for PCPM solutions is typically six months or sooner, and in the US the solution costs may be completely offset by utility rebates, making them relatively inexpensive. PCPM solutions are also lightweight and easy to deploy and while energy savings per machine are modest, they can deliver substantial operational savings when implemented across large fleets of machines. Plus PCPM solutions with advanced reporting capabilities can be readily incorporated into broader sustainability programmes to reduce CO2 emissions.

The minimum size at which an organisation can benefit from a PCPM solution may be determined simply by how practical it is for employees (or one employee with that specific task) to manually shut down desktops at the end of each day. Small and medium-sized organisations do deploy PCPM solutions, although savings scale significantly in larger organisations.

PCPM solutions that manage hundreds of desktop machines can be supported by a single server. Yet despite the relatively fast return on investment, some small and mid-sized businesses find it difficult to justify the capital expenditure and management of an on-site server. 

Many IT departments are not motivated to deploy PCPM because typically IT does not pay the utility bill. Without visibility or accountability for desktop operating costs, power management can be viewed by IT administrators as an inconvenience or as an impediment to routine desktop maintenance such as after-hours patching, and antivirus and software updates.

This is a misconception, yet it can occur among organisations of all sizes. IT departments wrongly think that power management software will disrupt their remote security management and patching activities. End users mistakenly believe that turning their computer off when not in use will harm it. More generally, both IT departments and end users tend to resist ceding control of their machines to an automated power management solution. Nevertheless, as the cost of energy continues to rise, power management across all areas of IT is becoming a necessity.

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Powering down PCs: saving energy, money and carbon emissions
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