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Monitoring is key to reducing IT carbon footprint: Researcher

Monitoring is key to reducing IT carbon footprint: Researcher

The University of Wollongong is using a modelling system to estimate its carbon footprint through ongoing monitoring

Monitoring is key to cutting down an organisation's energy consumption and overall IT carbon footprint, according to Helen Hasan, Associate Professor of Information Systems at the University of Wollongong.

Hasan, who is taking part in the upcoming 21st International Conference on Information Systems Development, gave an example of how the University of Wollongong's IT department is using a modelling system to estimate its carbon footprint through ongoing monitoring. This will enable the university to effectively implement strategies to reduce its overall energy consumption.

“We have given our IT department a spreadsheet modelling system that came from [universities in] the UK, that enables them to estimate the carbon footprint of IT on the university campus," said Hasan.

“They can then see a model where the most energy intensive activities go on, usually where the servers are."

Monitoring energy consumption also helps identify where investments in sustainable ICT technologies are most needed in an organisation, helping business leaders make decisions based on tangible benefits, Hasan added.

“[For example], it could be more effective to put in solar panels on the roof of the building that has big computer servers and use renewables for that. The cost benefits for that in the short term might only be a year or two and they’ll recoup the benefits of putting those in. So they can actually make decisions based on the data that they get from the use.”

When it comes to using the Cloud as a solution for energy savings, Hasan showed some scepticism, saying it’s difficult to determine and monitor an organisation’s carbon footprint to effectively reduce energy consumption.

“It’s very hard to know the environmental footprint of the Cloud," said Hasan. “Somewhere someone’s actually got a computer that’s doing the crunching of whatever process is taking place in the Cloud… But you have no idea what the carbon footprint of that is; it’s very hard to determine. If you’re comparing doing your business in the Cloud versus doing it yourself, you can more easily monitor the carbon footprint of your own equipment versus what’s in the Cloud.

“Potentially the Cloud is good because it has a more efficient use of resources," Hasan added. "It can actually use the same equipment to run lots and lots of businesses and that way get advantages through that sort of use. But, again, the evidence for it is not necessarily there. It’s one of these things that have possibilities but I don’t think it’s exactly proven that it’s good for the environment.”

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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