Agencies want to implement green IT practices for a variety of reasons. Teleworking and video conferencing take cars off the road, leading to more satisfied and productive workers and lower levels of pollution. Double-sided printing saves reams of paper. And server consolidation in federal data centers leads to much more efficient energy use.
Saving the planet — or at least an appreciable quantity of its precious natural resources — is an admirable goal, but all the motivation that IT managers need to implement green IT practices can be found on the bottom line. Agencies are saving millions of dollars by going green.
The ways to save are many. The General Services Administration has implemented a number of solutions, such as client virtualization, e-mail in the cloud and mobile-device management, that allow the agency to offer telework to a large percentage of its workforce. GSA estimates that telework helped it save $1.5 million in 2010, and it expects even greater savings as the program proceeds. The big money will be saved when the agency completes its office consolidation. GSA is moving workers from its various offices around Washington, D.C., to its headquarters in the district. Teleworking will allow the agency to house 4,000 positions at the 2,000-seat headquarters.
The savings — large and small — come in a variety of ways. For example, the Veterans Affairs department upgraded data center power distribution units to devices containing high-efficiency transformers, resulting in an estimated $50,000 savings per year. And VA saved thousands by switching to high-efficiency uninterruptible power supplies. Telework also saved the Agriculture Department $2 million in transit subsidies it pays to employees who commute into work.
Newer technologies can increase the savings as agencies adopt them. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) systems can help IT managers run data centers more efficiently. DCIM tools are far from ubiquitous, but a Gartner Research report predicted that they would be in use at 60 percent of data centers by 2014. And using the tools to improve energy efficiency could lead to savings that reduce a data center’s total operating expenses by as much as 20 percent, Gartner estimated.
These tangible savings are accompanied by plenty of other benefits that are harder to measure but still significant. Numerous surveys have found that teleworkers tend to be more satisfied with their jobs than their non-teleworking colleagues. Happy workers improve an agency’s recruitment and retention efforts, helping it hold on to skilled, experienced workers and saving the significant expense of hiring new ones.
Consolidating servers has forced agencies to standardize similar but disparate legacy applications. In moving servers from offices across the country into two data centers, the National Labor Relations Board standardized on one e-mail platform where previously it operated eight. It’s easier to manage one system than eight.
While doing the right thing for the planet is its own reward, implementing green IT offers plenty of monetary rewards and can help agencies create a more efficient work environment.