The Web requires an incredible amount of energy usage. Booting up a computer, viewing those dual monitors and playing an online game or two all use up large amounts of electricity. But even greater is the amount of energy required to run all of those servers needed to host all the world’s information and entertainment. Is there a better way? Enter the green Web host.
What Makes Web Hosts Green
Electricity can be generated from any number of sources. As you might guess, the most common are power plants based on coal, oil, nuclear energy, natural gas and large hydro fuels — some of which emit significant quantities of carbon and other greenhouse gases linked with global warming and climate change. On the other end of the spectrum, green energy is generated from a renewable source, such as wind turbines or solar photovoltaic panels. Although there are no formal standards, if a company is using at least some form of renewable energy to power their Web and mail servers, they can be considered environmentally friendly or “green.”
Some hosts may go as far as utilizing their own on-site renewable energy sources, such as electricity-generating windmills or solar panels. Affordable Internet Services Online, Inc. (AISO.net) uses solar panels to runs its data center and office. But there are plenty of other ways for hosts to “green up” their operations without switching to such a dramatic solution outright. Sustainable Websites (SustainableWebsites.com) offsets all of its energy usage for its servers and office equipment by purchasing wind-powered Renewable Energy certificates. Also known as green certificates (or green tags), they ensure the power they use is generated in an eco-friendly manner.
Tim Ashworth, Technical Director of NuBlue Digital Web Solutions explains how his company takes even the smallest steps to be more eco-friendly. "Hosting requires significant levels of electricity, but as an environmentally-conscious company we try to do everything we can to minimize our impact on the environment. All our non-essential electrical equipment is turned off at night and energysaving appliances are used throughout the office. We run a virtually paper-free office and nearly all information (including invoices, quotes etc) are sent electronically."
As renewable energy sources typically come at a higher cost than their non-green counterparts, it is important for hosts to find ways to offset those costs to make green hosting as accessible as possible to the consumer. After all, we all want to be environmentally friendly, but paying excessive amounts for cleaner air or a cleaner conscience usually doesn’t balance out for small businesses.
The electricity required to power servers and provide cooling is a major operational expense for data centers and hosting companies alike. As green solutions increase in demand, the industry is seeing more improvements in energy-efficient Web servers. It’s not just the source of energy used that makes an enterprise more environmentally friendly, but also how that energy is used. AISO.net also utilizes AMD Opteron powered servers that require 60 percent less energy and generate 50 percent less heat.
So how are consumers responding? Matt Russell, Chief Operating Officer of WebHostingBuzz said, “When we first announced this, there was a positive but small response. As 'carbon neutrality' has become more widespread in this industry and others, customers really begin to appreciate what we've done. We have customers who have signed up with us purely because we're carbon neutral.”
Next year, WebHostingBuzz will be launching carbonneutralwebhosting. com and an “extra-green plan,” where clients can choose to pay a couple of dollars more for “doubly carbon neutral.” In return, this money will be invested into a tree planting sponsorship with the International Tree Foundation, a charity that oversees tree planting worldwide.
While new hosting plans are emerging that cater to those focusing on being environmentally friendly, consumers will typically pay a little more for a green hosting experience. But as technology catches up to our ethical standards, expect those costs to lessen. And as green hosts become more widespread and their prices match non-green hosts, consumers can focus on a two key elements with which every Web host should be measured — service and reliability.