Tech giants like Microsoft and Google are encouraging both businesses and personal computer users to move to cloud computing, but aside from its practical benefits, can the cloud make a difference to our environment?
Data storage and the environment
In December, Super Micro Computer Inc., an enterprise and network solutions company, published a report called ‘Data Centers and the Environment’.
Cloud data storage requires large data centres to keep all the uploaded files. The term ‘cloud’ is perhaps inaccurate, since data does not go to some nebulous place in the sky, but rather ends up in large data centres. Microsoft’s OneDrive is a series of data centres where all the business and personal files saved go.
Not all companies use giants like Microsoft or Amazon; some have their own data centres. SuperMicro surveyed managers of data centres and found that 43% do not have an environmental policy, and half have these have no plans for future development.
When companies buy data centre technology, only 28% base their purchasing decisions on the equipment’s environmental impact. Only 9% said that energy efficiency was their top concern when setting up a new data centre.
Another issue is upgrading data centres; according to the survey, only 12% of companies surveyed had a recycling program to reduce e-waste when disposing of old equipment.
The President of Supermicro, Charles Liang, said:
“As a hardware solution company, we are investing heavily in our Resource-Saving server, accelerator and storage solutions, including the development of 10-year lifecycle chassis, power supplies, fans and other subsystems, to help end-customers save both energy cost and hardware acquisition costs while reducing IT waste.”
Microsoft places data centres undersea
Microsoft, as a leading provider of data storage, is keenly aware of the associated environmental issues. The firm has sunk a data centre in the North Sea near Orkney as part of a research project to find ways of creating a more eco-friendly internet.
A Microsoft spokesman told The Independent:
“Data centres are the backbone of the internet and as demand for data centre resources across the computing industry grows exponentially, we need a solution to data storage that provides both the speed people expect and solutions that are more environmentally sustainable.”
Undersea data centres need less energy to cool servers down, as tidal turbines generate the electricity that data centres need. One of the biggest challenges of this project was to develop maintenance-free data centres.
If the experiment is successful, Microsoft will create more undersea data centres.
What are other data storage providers?
Microsoft is not the only tech company looking at environmental issues. In 2017 Greenpeace praised Switch, which is trying to run their centres on 100% renewable energy. The organisation also praised Google (which has pledged to move to 100% renewable energy), as well as Apple and Facebook, but criticised Amazon Web Services, which is perhaps the world’s highest growing data storage provider.
At WM Reply, we help businesses migrate to cloud computing using Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive and other technologies. We welcome moves by Microsoft and other tech companies to find ways that minimise the environmental impact of building more and more data centres to store the massive volumes of data businesses create.