When it comes to sustainability and positive environmental impact, IT probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. In fact, it might feature on your list of negatives. But, the cloud is actually powerful driver for sustainability, and it’s one that should be more seriously considered when thinking about the future of the tech industry as a whole. Cloud computing is a great example of how technology can be used as a force for good – not only environmentally but also in terms of cost-effectiveness and ease of use.

The cloud has become a key player in the industry-wide push for reduced impact on the world, and organisations are increasingly realising the potential it offers to improve their environmental performance and ESG (environmental, social and governance) policies. For many, the move to the cloud is the first step toward implementing an environmentally sustainable approach to IT operations.

On Premise vs Cloud

How we store and manage our data can have a dramatic impact on our environment. But, many organisations still operate with on-premise, legacy systems. Unfortunately, managing data on-premise greatly increases carbon emissions, requiring significant infrastructure – such as data centres and cooling units – to run the system, as well as significant up-front capital investment and ongoing maintenance and operation costs. Currently, data centres account for around 2% of worldwide electricity use, which puts it on par with the entire aviation industry’s emissions. That consumption is expected to double by 2025. Thankfully, moving data to the cloud can reduce these emissions by more than 84%. But why is that?

With the cloud, IT services are delivered over the internet rather than in-house, data is stored on remote servers and managed on a centralised platform. By deploying cloud-based applications like a DMS (document management system) and ECS (enterprise content services), organisations are able to run their businesses more efficiently, reducing the need for a growing network of additional infrastructure – saving valuable resources, as well as reducing their impact on the planet. This is especially important at a time when climate change is having an increasing impact on society and the global economy.

So here are some ways in which cloud computing reduces an organisation’s carbon footprint:

Higher utilisation rate

On average, on-premise data centres use as little as 15% of their capacity. How? By using more servers than they actually need as a way to avoid hypothetical downtime during periods of high usage. The result is a wasteful and unnecessarily low utilisation rate. Whereas cloud providers need fewer servers, and less energy as a result, as they host multiple businesses all with varying usage patterns that balance each other out. By using less to achieve the same amount of work, cloud servers see an average utilisation rate of 65%.

Provider shift to renewable energy

Many, if not all of the major cloud service providers are making the move to more sustainable energy sources to power their servers. For example, AWS are aiming to power their operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025, using power from utility scale wind and solar projects. In 2019 Amazon announced their plans for 3 new wind farms with expected generation of over 670,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually.

The era of remote working

One of the biggest shakeups to work life in recent years yielded an unexpected, but still significant, benefit to the environment thanks to cloud computing. By enabling decentralised teams to work together, remotely, from anywhere in the world, the cloud has had a huge positive impact on businesses’ carbon footprints. A study found that the reduction of employees’ daily commutes to work to just 1 day a week can reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by around 10%.

Where does CARA stand?

The CARA Platform is hosted on AWS (amazon web service), the most energy efficient computing and storage in the industry – up to three times more efficient than the closest competitor. Whether running 24/7 or only during peak usage times, the servers and storage subsystems in Amazon’s US East Region can consume less energy than a computer plugged into a wall socket in your office. This energy efficiency has been achieved through a combination of hardware innovations and operating practices such as cold shutdown of idle instances and power capping on EC2 instances.

“On average, AWS customers use 77% fewer servers, 84% less power, and utilise a 28% cleaner power mix, for a total reduction in carbon emissions of 88% from using the AWS Cloud instead of operating their own data centres.”

The environmental benefits of moving to the cloud extend beyond IT. Organisations can use cloud automation tools such as the CARA Platform to automate manual processes, which can free up staff and reduce the need for travel. Organisations can also utilise collaboration tools to collaborate more effectively and eliminate unnecessary printing and copying. These and other efficiencies can help organisations to reduce their energy consumption, reduce CO2 emissions and save money in the process.

Interested in the business & strategic benefits of migrating to the cloud? Then check out our blog on the topic here.