Save money and the environment – turn your computer off

So here at Virtual IT, on the second Wednesday of every month, we deploy Microsoft security updates to our customers’ servers and computers. We do this in the dark of night as the original idea when we started up was that this would not interfere with a company’s productivity as they would just come in the next day and login and work as usual. Before we push the patches we give everyone due warning; “You should log out of your computer on Wednesday night and Thursday night but leave it turned on, as your computer will receive the update on one of these nights, and your computer is liable to restart. Logging out will guarantee that you have saved all of your work.”

It is a simple (if not a little sterile), enough process, so long as you ignore two increasingly pertinent questions. The first is a fiscal question. Just how much does this cost my company to keep these computers and monitors on all the time? Taking some generalizations, assume for a moment that your computer is in use for 10 hours a day. At the end of the day you log off and leave your computer running as normal. The standard power supply unit for a business desktop is 240w. If your electricity supplier charges you, say, 10p per KWh then those 14 hours when that one computer was sitting there turned on but doing nothing would cost you 33.6p. Over the course of a year that would amount to over £120 in electricity per PC. And this doesn’t even take into account that LCD monitor plugged into it. More contemporary desktops have hibernation modes, but this will only save you about 50% of that base cost. So you will still be wasting £60 per computer in your office per year.

But what about remote access?

Some companies keep their computers turned on because their staff need to be able to remotely access them at any given time to burn the midnight oil, so says their management team. Our remote access logs would suggest that this isn’t actually a regular practice for anyone, so if your company does have a policy to keep your computers on all the time, just in case, then I would strongly recommend you find out just how many people are actually doing it, as you may find that this policy is in need of an overhaul.

But I heard that turning your computer on and off shortens the life span of a computer?

Whether this was actually true, with today’s technology this is not an issue you need to worry about. The reliability of computer components is an area that has undergone continual improvement with each generational leap. Computer hard drives are designed to have a tolerance in excess of 20,000 power cycles in their lifetime, power supply units, at least 75,000. If your monitor has an Energy Star rating then it is designed to be turned on and off over 80,000 times during the course of its life. Put simply, while your computer set up will die a death eventually, you won’t be able to blame turning it off of an evening for its demise.

The second consideration is slightly more ethical. It is the consideration you should be making in regards to the impact your IT has on the environment. In fairness, this consideration is often disregarded in favour of the more compelling fiscal argument, but it is certainly gained traction in recent years.

HP has invested quite a bit of literature on the impact of their hardware. The cynic in me suggests that this all a ploy to get you to buy their latest wares, but there is something to be learned here.

Several years back we were distributing the HP DC7700, you may still be using these computers now. They emit an average of 46.3 Kg per CO2 a year. The current HP computer is the 8200. With its energy saving settings enabled, it emits an average of 18.6 Kg of CO2 per year. So the D7700 is clearly producing more CO2, which is a primary contributor to the theory of global warming. But what is 46 Kg of CO2 relative to? To put it into context, the average fully grown tree absorbs 21 Kg of CO2 a year, so that DC7700 is using more than 2 trees worth of oxygen production to keep it running. When you consider all the computers that are up and running all the time, that equates to a lot of trees!


My monthly message to my customer base is not going to change, it is not our job to impose policy on our clients where at all possible. It is important for us to inform however, and if I were to be expressly asked my opinion I would recommend shutting down your computers and monitors of an evening. It will save you a fortune in electricity, and may just go some way towards helping ease our impact on the environment we live in.

If you have any questions on this subject or indeed anything IT related please feel free to use the comments box below or speak to your Account Manager.

For more information on carbon offsetting click here


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