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The benefits of the clean cloud

Image credit: metamorworks / Shutterstock.com

On a global scale, countries far and wide are committing to a net-zero future. From the UK’s point of view too, many funded initiatives are in place – or being introduced – to drive the nation towards becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

For organisations of all shapes and sizes, they will most likely be revisiting their environmental, social and governance strategy, or – in some cases – tackling it for the first time in a bid to fight climate change. Even seemingly small actions such as donating unused technology devices to worthy causes, rather than sending equipment to landfills, can also make a big difference.

And there’s no question that the data centre industry has a big part in pushing towards a greener future. Demand for data is increasing at a rapid rate and when these centres are pivotal to economic success, it’s no surprise they also use an immense amount of power – reportedly being responsible for around 2% of the world’s energy consumption.

Tackling the challenge

The good news is the data centre sector is aware of the challenges and is trying to tackle them head-on. DEFRA for example has unveiled an ICT sustainability strategy that delves into how to reduce carbon emissions via actions such as adopting a ‘circular economy’ approach, encouraging more virtual collaboration, and increasing transparency through the supply chain, to name a few areas of focus.

And while these developments will all help towards the reduction in energy consumption, a responsible website owner should also understand the role in which they can play when it comes to battling against climate change.

Websites in general have a significant impact on sustainability. The more complex they are, the worse they can be for the planet. After all, the internet is enormous and never switches off 24/7, 365 days of the year.

In today’s fast-paced and digital-first world, it’s reported that the average website costs six grams of CO2 – the equivalent of driving a car for a total of 12,000 miles. Therefore, the need to analyse website performance, and how some small tweaks can make a big difference, should be high up the priority list when working out ways to reduce carbon emissions.

With the right specialist in place, they could help data centres to decrease what they transport in terms of networks and cables. Even a 25% reduction in a website can save tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere.

So, how could websites become more sustainable?

  1. Reduce page size and processing time

Pixels need power and when images are often a critical part of web design, they can also be the reason for so much energy consumption. If an organisation uploads an image that is 1MB too big for example, it might not seem too bad on the surface. However, when it’s downloaded one million times, that’s one million megabytes of server, network and user device time, plus electricity and transport time.

The best way to tackle this is to optimise images to reduce the file size – without compromising on quality – because otherwise it could severely impact on page load time and contribute to carbon emissions.

It’s also in the best interests of businesses to devise a ‘green speed’ agenda and analyse their website performance too, because a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions, which can be significant.

JavaScript is the enemy of both the planet and site speed, so organisations need to make sure that they have optimised when and where scripts load and ensure they don’t load files they don’t need. Where appropriate too, performance tune them.

However, it’s important to note that tuning is not possible with third-party JavaScript. It’s unlikely they will work towards the green speed timeframes, so the advice here would be to choose and manage third parties wisely.

  1. Focus on marginal gains

As an example, end devices such as our desktops, phones and tablets are responsible for a large percentage of total IT energy consumption. Therefore, companies that ‘go green’ with better loading sites and who turn off auto-playing videos, reduce custom fonts, have less or optimised JavaScript, access a green web host, and switch from on-premise technology to cloud-native solutions can help to reduce their carbon emissions.

From a commercial point of view too, even a 0.1% improvement can represent millions of extra revenue for brands.

Organisational leaders need to think of their devices as being millions of small power guzzlers. The world is continually trying to make petrol go further and make vehicles travel for longer, and so this attitude should be adopted when it comes to the applications and websites that customers use. One small change can make a huge difference.

  1. Tap into the powers of synthetic testing

Synthetic testing or monitoring, in its most advanced form, uses the power of next-generation website monitoring technologies to proactively simulate the very varied and arguably unpredictable (almost limitless) behaviour of the internet and a human on a website, so that no stone is left unturned.

And the truth is, for a specific type of brand – for example, a retailer or eCommerce organisation – this type of testing can quickly become their ultimate online mystery shopper. That’s because this ‘e-store monitor’ can provide detail on website availability, performance and security risks that would otherwise jeopardise revenue or reputation if it’s not dealt with.

As a result, when things are monitored, there’s more chance of improvements being made to make things more sustainable, and users can quickly get to the content they require.

Overall, while many people have grown up with the notion of ‘green means go’ it doesn’t always translate in the same way with websites. The reason is, there can always be a faster website, but is it better for the planet? What’s important for organisations is to delve a little deeper into what they can do to exactly make their site more carbon neutral friendly, and that doesn’t always come down to speed.

Ultimately, a more sustainable website means better conversions, so it’s in every company’s interest to reduce emissions, use a clean cloud data centre and start their website green speed agenda today.

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