Business Hardware

Most Tech Shops Forgo Energy Savings

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Most IT professionals, according to a survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc., aren't managing PC power use within their organizations, even as many companies look to cut costs because of the economic recession. By not doing so, they may be passing up big savings, especially in regions with high energy costs.

Forrester surveyed 91 IT managers in midsize and large companies about their PC power management practices. The consulting firm, which issued a report about the survey to its clients this month, found that only 13% of the respondents had implemented wide-scale power management programs, while another 18% had set up programs but not for all of their PCs.

The top reason cited for the low deployment rate was IT managers not being responsible for technology energy costs, said Doug Washburn, the Forrester analyst who conducted the survey.

The survey results aren't surprising: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that no more than 10% of all PCs in use within organizations have their power management capabilities turned on.

One reason for that may be skepticism about how much money can be saved per PC. Another may be the continued use of Windows XP. Windows Vista gives administrators the ability to natively manage power settings on PCs over a network, but XP does not, although there are third-party tools available for that, including a free one from the EPA called EZ GPO.

In addition, managing electricity usage typically falls under the duties of facilities managers such as Forrest Miller, director of support services at the Lake Washington School District in Redmond, Wash. Among other things, he is responsible for the power utilization of about 11,500 PCs.

For the past several years, Miller has been using software from Seattle-based Verdiem Corp. to manage the school district's PC power consumption. The tool is set to put PCs into sleep mode after 20 minutes of inactivity, said Miller, whose IT department administers the software for him.

The Verdiem software costs Lake Washington US$25,000 annually under a three-year agreement. Miller said that the application has helped the district reduce power consumption by about 3.66 million kilowatt hours per year, for an annual savings of about $256,000, based on current electricity rates.

Miller said he views power management as an easy way for users to have a major impact on energy costs with minimal or no impact on work processes. He added that he has yet to hear any complaints from employees about the program. "It would be interesting to me to know why people wouldn't do this," he said of PC power management in general.

The dollars savings may vary significantly by region, though. For instance, Washington state has relatively low power costs, in the range of 5 to 7 cents per kWh. Contrast that with Northeast states such as Connecticut, where rates range from 14.25 cents to nearly 20 cents per kWh, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EPA estimates cost savings of $25 to $75 per PC annually if system standby or hibernation features are activated on machines.

Washburn said there are other reasons why PC power management tools aren't being deployed more widely. That includes concerns about possible end-user backlash, uncertainties about the best approach and policies to put in place, and an inability to predict financial savings and make a business case for a program if companies haven't measured their existing power consumption levels.

But only 9% of the IT managers surveyed by Forrester said they had no interest at all in PC power management, while 48% said they were considering the idea of setting up a program. Washburn thinks that change is afoot. Even if IT managers don't own the energy budget at their companies, "there is much more pressure to understand energy consumption," he said.

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