Is Cloud Computing Eco-Friendly?

Green is the buzzword in businesses today. So is Cloud Computing. The popularity of services like iCloud, Google Drive and Amazon Web Services has led companies to move their data and processes into Cloud-based solutions, that help make a business agile and lean. Businesses that involve software-as-a-service, outsourcing and the like are thriving. Outsourcing helps reduce capital expenditures, which are instead spent on operating expense, which can be easily reallocated as necessary.

Cloud computing, at first glance, has a few benefits that can translate to energy-savings. First, because services and processes are run outside of one’s own premises, there is a reduction in energy costs.

Runing hardware on-premises will require power to run servers and workstations, lighting, cooling, and even staffing. Moving data to the cloud will mean that companies like Google, Amazon and others will be taking care of running and maintaining the hardware for you.

Further, cloud providers will usually have scalable devices and processes in place, and these equipment are built with efficiency in mind. As such, there is a reduction in carbon footprint, given that servers owned by cloud-providers operate as efficiently as possible.

However, some green advocacy groups are saying that cloud computing may not necessarily be eco-friendly. True enough, moving a company’s data and processes to a remote server merely off-loads the carbon consumption to another company. As such, even if you will get reduced electricity, cooling and even staffing by taking the server outside of your own premises, the company you are paying to run your cloud will have to bear the brunt, and add your processes ot their carbon footprint.

The question here is whether there is a net gain or net reduction in carbon consumption due to cloud computing. As earlier mentioned, cloud providers will usually construct their servers and facilities using eco-friendly standards. Compliance with standards like the LEED certification are usually targets by big companies that offer cloud-services like Amazon, Apple and Google.

These use eco-friendly setups, including efficient water-based cooling systems, high-efficiency air conditioners, and distributed architecture that help reduce heat and energy draw.

Another concern is how businesses will account for the carbon footprint of upstream suppliers. Companies like Samsung and Intel consider suppliers’ carbon consumption in their own reports, rather than just their own infrastructure. The important thing to consider here is to compute for the aggregate consumption vis-à-vis the aggregate energy savings gained from cloud computing.

Given these, there is no short and simple answer to whether cloud-computing is truly green. But for a business wanting to save on carbon consumption from one’s internal infrastructure, going to the cloud is certainly one way to be more eco-friendly.