'Green' Web Hosting: Carbon Saver or Marketing Gimmick?

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It’s been a few years since I first became aware of the concept of “green” web hosting. I was shocked to hear the claims that a typical web server, hosting anything from a corporate website to your neighbor’s blog, produces about as much C02 as an SUV. Not only that but a typical data center which houses such servers consumes about as much energy as 30,000 households. But just how accurate are these claims? Are these merely scare tactics used to get would-be web managers to buy into “green” hosting companies?

Google has been receiving a lot of flak lately regarding their carbon footprint. Recently, there was an accusation that every two Google searches performed produce about 15g of C02, approximately the same amount produced by boiling a kettle of water. However, that data may have been a bit exaggerated, according to Google, who responded by saying that each search only emits about 0.2g of C02.

Just like the Google scenario, I would consider it possible that the carbon footprint of web hosting is somewhat overestimated in certain cases, especially by those selling an alleged solution. However, the truth is, hosting the millions of sites on the Internet uses a considerable amount of energy. If the choice is between hosting my site on servers powered by renewable energy and ones that don’t, for exactly the same price, I think the choice is clear. Plus, many of these “green” web services, such as HostPapa or GreenGeeks offer extremely robust script libraries and hosting features consistent with other companies. My only advice in choosing a “green” web host would be to read between the lines. There is no standard requirement for putting the word “green” in your company name, so in the case of web hosting services, there are varying degrees of “greenness” and there are also, unfortunately, imposters.

So to answer the six million dollar question posed by this blog’s title… it’s both. Sure, these companies are cashing in on a trend. But necessity and clever marketing is what got us into this tangled mess of energy reliance in the first place, so maybe that’s just what we need to get us out.

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