How small businesses can tackle the issue of sustainability

Sustainability can feel overwhelming for the owners of small businesses and their IT departments. With so many elements to consider, from reducing paper usage to switching to more energy efficient cloud suppliers, any change takes significant due diligence, planning and reporting to ensure improvements have a positive impact on the environment and business’s local community.

For anyone outside of IT, it can be difficult to visualise the systems that power the solutions we all depend on for our jobs and their collective effect on the environment. Those overseeing an IT department themselves know their responsibility, but it can be challenging to know where to start.

To make it easier for small businesses to focus their attention, we’ve listed three key elements that lower a small business’s environmental footprint and improve its sustainability.

Evaluate your existing hardware

From ageing data centre racks to creaking laptops, old equipment can be extremely inefficient.

These outdated machines use significant amounts of energy, and for data centre equipment, this also has a knock on effect on the cooling and air conditioning systems used to prevent overheating. This is not only a sustainability issue too – if a server were to overheat and cause systems to shut down this could lead to costly downtime and loss of business.

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Any upgrade project can feel like a significant investment, especially in this current climate, however the long-term financial benefits of energy efficiency outweigh the cost of doing nothing. Many outsourced IT providers offer ‘as-a-service’ models to spread the cost of new equipment in a more affordable way.

When your equipment does reach its end of life, look into IT recycling schemes that reduce landfill usage.

Thrive with remote working

Remote working has its productivity and employee wellbeing benefits, but it’s also beneficial for the environment.

Emissions will be reduced from fewer employees commuting and, if over time remote working becomes adopted company-wide, it can reduce the office building’s energy usage as well.

With remote working, remember that it’s important personal devices comply with your company’s security policy, everyone installs the latest antivirus and firewall updates to prevent an unnecessary attack on the company network and business continuity measures are in place to avoid downtime.

Check-in with your data centre and cloud suppliers

If you outsource your IT to a third party this doesn’t mean you can forget about your impact on the environment.

Remember, your third party suppliers reflect on brand reputation so if your suppliers don’t match up to your environmental commitments it’s important to find suppliers that do.

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What are their CSR mandates? Are they investing in sustainability themselves through renewable energy? Select an efficient data centre provider that’s committed to improving their PUE rating (you want as low as possible).

IT is only one part of business sustainability, but the more businesses demand better practices from their suppliers, the faster new measures will be implemented. Ask your suppliers about their commitment to sustainable practices and if they need improving, what the timeframe is on reaching their targets.

IT has a responsibility like any other department to reduce its impact, provide more sustainable solutions and consider small changes that collectively deliver material change. These include:

• Ensuring hardware, regardless of age, goes into standby mode after a few minutes of inactivity, as this saves power and potentially elongates hardware life

• Unplugging mobile chargers rather than leaving them switched on in sockets

• Having printers enter standby mode as soon as possible

• Consolidating servers (on-premise and within the data centre) and assess the effect of running servers one or two degrees hotter (less cooling equals less power)

• Using free air cooling where possible (providing the weather allows it)

• Lowering screen brightness and using darker computer wallpapers

Sustainability will only rise in importance over the coming years and customers will look to their suppliers to lead by example, demonstrate their commitment to reducing climate change and deliver positive improvements.

Written by Andy Horn, CEO of IntraLAN

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