While the climate change protests have been banned in London for the time being, the debate around the topic continues in earnest.
Much of that debate has focused on what role the data centre industry plays in reducing carbon emissions, and according to Memset, businesses in this industry need to seriously consider the environmental consequences of their cloud storage infrastructure and take steps to minimise its impact.
While adopting cloud has resulted in a whole range of efficiencies – including energy consumption – data storage is rapidly rising in the league tables as a major source of carbon. It is only a matter of time until environmental campaigners like Extinction Rebellion turn on this major area of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility.
Annalisa O’Rourke, chief operations officer at Memset commented: “Storing and using data consumes a lot of energy, and many businesses have been able to remove this energy consumption from their sustainability books by using outsourced cloud providers. But shifting the problem to a supplier is not taking responsibility. Organisations need to not only develop sustainable policies for themselves, but to also include their whole network of suppliers in their strategies.”
Cloud storage can be a much more sustainable approach than traditional on premises storage. Providers tend to use newer technology and have an incentive to become as energy efficient as possible and reduce what is one of the largest operational expenses. Advances in power usage effectiveness and the use of sustainable cooling techniques have all allowed big advances.
However, the problem is that as storing data becomes more efficient and costs reduce, businesses are able to provide services for less, thereby increasing consumption. The result is that even though data has been stored in highly energy efficient ways, we are still using ever more energy. Ultimately, the only sustainable course of action is to use renewable energy sources and to put in place carbon neutral policies.
Memset has a range of measures to ensure it is carbon neutral – proving that SME cloud providers are more than able to meet the challenge. The company became one of the UK’s first Carbon Neutral Web host in 2006 and has since then committed to minimising its carbon footprint across the board. The company only uses ‘green’ suppliers and uses a mix of mains and solar power energy. With servers central to the business, Memset has a constant turnover in its asset pool. Where possible they reuse and reallocate servers to reduce waste; but only if they pass stringent quality checks.
O’Rourke continued: “Regardless of what you think about the methods and rhetoric of extinction rebellion, the direction of climate change and the need for more sustainable processes is clear. Businesses have a duty to consider cloud suppliers for their commitment to environmental sustainability. The danger is that by failing to do so, they will make themselves a target for campaigners, risk reputational damage, and make their other CSR efforts seem just cosmetic.”