4 Ways Cloud Computing Helps SMBs Lower Their Carbon Footprint

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In our daily lives, we’re focused on a number of different priorities, from caring for our families to achieving benchmark goals in our careers-- something that hits both marks and should be taken more seriously is how we can prioritize helping our environment. 

Helping our environment COVID19

Technology is always advancing toward the constant improvement of what came before, typically for the benefit of its users. If you work in IT you know how time-consuming and costly traditional data centers can be, and you may have already considered changing to cloud computing services because of the scalable and time-saving nature of the system. Also considering the fact that cloud computing can level the playing field for smaller businesses when it comes to powering their operations, seems like enough improvements to convince shareholders. However, there’s an additional benefit that drives benefactor and community support for cloud computing. 


It can also greatly lower your company’s carbon footprint - making an impact on the environment that will benefit it for generations to come. Here are four ways cloud computing helps lower your carbon footprint while also improving your business:


1. Saving Energy

According to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), data centers use about 1.8% of the total electricity consumed in the United States alone. That is equivalent to 70 billion kilowatt-hours a year, which would equal what is consumed by six million homes. Research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Library, along with Northwestern University, predicts that transitioning to cloud computing could cut that number by 87% annually.


By reducing energy usage at this grand of a scale, cloud computing would be concurrently reducing the emissions produced by power plants. New cloud computing centers use advanced technologies that are energy efficient. Cloud data centers require less equipment and storage space as well, which would reduce electricity requirements for lighting, cooling and power conditioning. 


cloud computing reduces energy usage


Although the world’s computer centers are multiplying at rapid rates, their energy usage level is decreasing, thanks in large part to cloud computing. Reducing the number of data centers by switching computing operations to cloud providers, significantly lowers carbon emissions and electricity consumption.


2. Dematerialization

Dematerialization is the replacement of high-carbon physical products with virtual equivalents. In a study conducted by WSP and Microsoft, results showed that because cloud computing requires less to achieve more, we can expect to see fewer pieces of physical equipment in central cloud data centers. This contributes to a smaller carbon footprint through a sort of chain reaction.


By no longer needing to mine for rare, raw materials to build the equipment, we see less negative environmental impact. Then there are fewer emissions being produced by transporting the equipment to the data centers themselves. When in use, there are fewer idle machines producing e-waste. Finally, we see the elimination of more waste from reducing the need to dispose of the equipment every few years, promoting a smaller carbon footprint and decreasing the use of landfills. 


Migration to the cloud uses fewer machines, less energy, and has a lower negative impact on the environment. Smaller businesses, as a result, experience lower energy bills and more available capital to allocate to their more profitable projects. This shows how transitioning to cloud computing can be mutually beneficial for small and mid-sized businesses, as well as the earth. 


“Analysis suggests that on average across [3] different cloud applications, typical carbon emission reductions by deployment
size are:

  • Greater than 90% for small deployments of about 100 users
  • 60-90% for medium-sized deployment of about 1000 users.”


This is based on a study conducted by Microsoft on the reduction of carbon emissions from companies using their 3 most broadly used cloud applications, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, versus on-premises data centers. Deployment size refers to the amount of equipment being deployed for company use. 


3. Optimizing Document Storage

Cloud computing helps businesses go completely paperless with the help of document storage options such as DropBox, SharePoint, and Google Drive. Other paper reducing solutions are realized by using technologies like DocuSign and Adobe-Sign so that it isn’t necessary to print documents in order to acquire signatures. Signed documents are stored electronically in the cloud.  

cloud computing helps businesses go completely paperless

By optimizing document management, you reduce the need to maintain physical documents for lengthy periods of time, then dispose of them at a later date. You can also save a great deal of office space, and of course, spending way less on paper. 


Did you know? Turning a single tree into 17 reams of paper results in around 110 lbs of C02 being released into the atmosphere. Additionally, trees are also ‘carbon sinks’ and every tree that isn’t cut down for paper usage is able to absorb C02 gasses. The average tree can absorb around a ton- 2,000 lbs- of C02 in its lifetime.


By automating business processes and transitioning to more eco-friendly workflow solutions, companies can saves tens, hundreds, and millions of dollars this year, and every year. Paperless faxing and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software allows organizations to reduce phone lines and data entry costs while eliminating costs of ink, paper, and associated labor costs.


4. Renewable Energy Sources

Cloud data centers are more frequently using renewable sources of energy instead of the standard power plants that produce high levels of dangerous emissions. Through the use of wind, solar, geothermal and hydro-powered energy sources, cloud data centers are keeping up the same amount of productivity but with significantly less impact on the environment. 


This shift is made possible by moving away from traditional on-site data centers when you transition to cloud computing you have more options. In the report from the same study mentioned earlier, Microsoft has claimed their goal is to achieve a 60% direct purchase of renewable energy resources in the next decade. By supporting these companies in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, we reduce our own at the same time and the whole earth benefits.   


Earlier this month, Amazon announced three international projects for sustaining AWS' [Amazon Web Services’] global infrastructure. The additional wind turbine projects are set to deliver wind-generated energy, totaling 229 megawatts of power. In 2018, AWS hit the 50% mark on renewable energy for its global infrastructure.

Renewable energy sources

Microsoft is experimenting with making the ocean floor a hospitable environment for data centers. Project Natick, Microsoft's submarine data center experiment, is a solution for the land-based data centers that demand energy and time...The marine data center is powered by tidal energy.


Looking Ahead

We all want to do our part to protect and preserve our environment. Cloud computing is one of those multifaceted solutions that can save your IT team time and a lot of headaches by cutting out traditional data centers. When you are able to save your company money, make your team more productive, and help the earth by reducing your carbon footprint-- truly everybody wins!


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