In the context of cloud applications, for the last several years, the purpose of technology was to help enterprises realize the advantages of speed, scale, innovation, and cost-efficiency. But there’s more to the cloud story the leaner IT operations and infrastructure.
Last year, a study found that the Microsoft cloud is up to 93% more energy-efficient and can result in 98% lower carbon emissions than traditional enterprise data centers. Put simply, cloud-based solutions don’t consume the same amount of infrastructure, space, and energy per corporate user.
Research conducted for Dell Technologies estimates that just moving the HR system of a single major company to the cloud would cut CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons over five years – the equivalent of taking almost 6,000 cars off the road.
For enterprises, the benefits of cloud applications have evolved far beyond scale and cost efficiencies. Today, the cloud serves as the foundation of technology-led innovation and business growth. And beyond the bottom line, cloud applications are rapidly delivering a positive impact. That is the true purpose of technology.
Here are four more examples of how cloud computing is shaping a better business.
1. Cleaner energy consumption
Of course, it’s true that cloud data centers use large amounts of energy. Google says it gets through 3 gigawatts every year. But the companies that are placing big bets on the cloud are balancing these with a greater commitment to the environment.
Last year, Google became the first public cloud provider to achieve a 100% renewable target for its energy use. In addition to purchasing renewable energy such as wind and solar from farms built specifically for Google, the company also invests in building new renewable capacity in the countries in which it operates.
Microsoft’s prototype underwater data center takes advantage of coastal wind energy. Submerged off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, the facility uses the heat exchange technology that regulates temperatures in submarines.
2. Reduced emissions
With enterprise systems and data hosted in the cloud enabling people to work remotely, companies can reduce the carbon footprint of their office spaces and lessen, if not eliminate altogether, the impact of commuting. Connected technology companies have led the way in enabling remote working. One in six of the 65,000 people employed by enterprise software provider SAP work remotely.
Dell Technologies reduced its carbon footprint by 35,000 tons of CO2 a year by allowing staff in the US to work from home an average of 9.5 days a month. As well as enjoying a better work-life balance, employees also reduced their gasoline consumption by almost 795 liters per year.
Lorax Partnerships, a Baltimore, US-based sustainable building design company, saved nearly 2,000 kg of CO2 simply by allowing just seven of its staff to work from home on 15 Fridays in 2015.
3. Optimized utilization of hardware
Onsite data centers run at an average of 5% to 10% of their capacity most of the time, whereas utilization rates for cloud data centers are typically as much as 70%. The facilities are designed to use energy more effectively, and costs are shared across many users.
Even when located in purpose-built accommodation, on-site data centers can never match this eco-efficiency, in which everything from light bulbs to cooling systems is optimized and shared.
Optimizing servers and data centers helped Google save more than $1 billion in energy use, underscoring the scale of savings that can be to be made from the cloud in this area.
4. Paperless operations
Cloud applications enables the storing and sharing of documents that can be accessed anywhere, removing the need to print out and file them. As well as the positive environmental impact of paperless operations, cost savings for the business can be significant. Research by the London School of Economics found that papermaking can generate up to 1 ton of CO2 per ton of paper.
Barclays Cloud It allows clients to store and access important documents from anywhere at any time. Bank statements and transaction details are also stored in the cloud, eliminating the need for printed copies to be sent and encouraging paperless operations. In Spain and Portugal, Barclaycard encouraged customers to go paperless – receiving electronic bank statements instead of printed documents – and saved €380,000 ($425,000) as the number of customers who agreed to go paperless rose from 7,000 to 65,000. The bank’s Be Green project also promises to plant a tree for every customer who switches. So far it has planted more than 200,000
Purpose of tech: the next frontier of green operations
Not all data centers are created equal. Some undoubtedly offer greater savings, energy efficiency and environmental benefits than others. But with cloud providers generating utilization rates six times better than those of in-house solutions, enterprises committed to sustainable operations are fact recognizing the benefits cloud offers towards this promise.