The Effects Of Data Centres On The Environment

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It's a perennial dilemma – IT has given us huge benefits by way of streamlining our ability to transport data and information, and disseminate it as widely as possible, but in its turn, it has created substantial new demand for energy, which in the main means resources which are finite.

So how can a company which wants to reconcile its own need to consume and process large, and increasing, amounts of information, balance that with its no doubt equally pressing requirement to keep control of its energy costs, while retaining levels of efficiency and reliability?

Power runs two ways

When we are consuming the power needed for most of our domestic appliances, we only need to think of it in terms of a one-way street, that is, the amount of power needed to simply work the device in question.

But for data centres, it's a two-way process. Every watt of power which is used in producing the output of a piece of machinery is often matched by the amount of energy needed to keep that machine cool and running at its optimum efficiency.

It means that companies which have large requirements for data storage and processing need to consider how they can minimise the cost of these tasks. They need to remember that data and information storage isn't, as it used to be, a case of putting information into boxes, and in turn consigning them to a darkened room somewhere in the depths of their buildings.

Data now a commodity which needs to be looked after properly

With the tendency for ever more data to be collected by businesses – often without them realising it – has come the need for them to keep it stored properly.

It's much like the old days, when a filing cabinet would be the place where all data and useful information was kept. And over time, businesses realised that, if that information was to remain available in the future, it had to be stored in the right environment. Keeping records in open storage usually meant that they would quickly deteriorate.

And so it is with information contained in an intangible form, such as on a computer's hard drive. The big difference, though, is that to access a hard drive, and other means of storing data, a certain amount of energy has to be used. Even storing that information so that it can be quickly and reliably accessed requires the right environment.

Not just cold rooms

So a data centre is far from just being a warehouse for information. On the contrary, it has to be kept at the optimal temperature to ensure that the information it contains can be constantly accessed whenever it's needed.

Because data is now stored on increasingly sophisticated electronic equipment, keeping it safe requires that equipment to be kept in the right conditions to ensure that it will work properly at all times.

This is why new standards have been introduced to govern the building of rooms whose sole purpose is to store data – and why these standards are just as rigorous as those which apply to the building of a family home.

And as both these types of building have distinct needs in terms of the amount of energy which they both absorb and expend, it follows that their users have to be conscious of more than just the power capacity – and so the cost – which they incur.

They also need to be aware of how they can save on the amount of energy consumed. And as we all now realise, this brings longer-term benefits for everyone, as we look to economise on the amount of finite resources used in producing that energy. 

Author Bio:
Johan Kemp is a freelance writer concentrating on IT support and solutions. He is currently writing in conjunction with The Data Center UK
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