Every day, Cloud Computing is being heralded as the next big thing in IT. Cloud computing benefits are plentiful – from increased reliability to decreased costs and better productivity. But what about Cloud Computing’s environmental impact?
In 2020, six out of ten businesses moved their workloads to the cloud, marking the highest increase in cloud computing adoption among companies. Considering the lower costs, increased security, and flexibility afforded by cloud computing, this trend is expected to continue in the coming years.
Cloud Computing Benefits
Beyond cost-effectiveness and cybersecurity concerns, companies are also becoming increasingly involved in projects aiming for sustainability. This is not a surprise considering that the disastrous impacts of climate change have been dominating global headlines once again.
Environmental projects are usually integrated with companies’ corporate social responsibility. Traditional environmental initiatives include adopting watersheds, starting recycling initiatives, and using eco-friendly materials for production.
Today, with the pandemic forcing companies to fast-track their digitalization, cloud computing could be considered an environmentally sustainable move. But before we delve into the environmental benefits of cloud computing, let’s review how cloud computing works.
How Does Cloud Computing work?
First of all, “the cloud” refers to the internet. Instead of buying and maintaining your own physical data centers and servers, cloud computing allows you to pay for the technology services you need. These services include storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence. Its pay-as-you-go pricing scheme is often touted as its best feature.
There are various kinds of cloud computing services with different levels of control and flexibility.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – gives you a complete product or application (e.g., web-based email)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – gives you a platform for developing, testing, delivering, and managing software applications.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – gives you IT infrastructure such as servers and virtual machines (VMs), storage, networks, operating systems.
While the technical aspects of cloud computing may sound confusing and intimidating, it is a widely used service. Cloud computing can be as simple as web-based email, which allows users to access all the features and files of the system without having to keep the bulk of that system on their computers. A cloud-based expense management system also provides the same hassle-free service for a company’s financial needs.
Interestingly, most people already use various cloud operating systems without knowing, such as Gmail, Google Drive, Facebook, and Instagram. Every photo or document posted is sent to a cloud-hosted server that stores this information for future needs. This remote data storage functionality of cloud computing has been proven to help businesses and individuals with day-to-day tasks.
How Sustainable is Cloud Computing?
There has been a growing green trend in startups and Fortune 500 companies. Specifically, more and more businesses are employing sustainable practices to curb the debilitating effects of climate change—a move that also plays well to their public relations.
As mentioned earlier, the green revolution also moves to the virtual realm. Cloud computing is a prime example of this as it aims to reduce materialistic systems, paper, electricity, packing materials, and many more.
Cloud Computing is Energy-Efficient
An on-site data center requires a constant power supply for your servers and a cooling system to prevent devices from overheating. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, physical data centers are responsible for almost 2% of the overall energy consumption of the whole United States. When the equipment is no longer usable, it needs to be replaced, adding global electronic waste.
However, since cloud computing enables shared data on fewer servers, fewer machines are used to accomplish the same amount of work. Cloud data centers often purchase top-rate, energy-saving technologies that are usually out of reach for smaller companies.
Cloud Computing Utilizes Renewable Resources
Most cloud computing centers are powered by renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal, and wind energy. These sources are good for the environment because, aside from being “renewable,” they emit almost no greenhouse gases at all.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), which supports 76% of the enterprises that shifted to the cloud in 2020, has partnered with Lateral Technology to achieve “100% renewable energy usage.” While a few cloud computing companies might not yet commit to using green energy, they are likely to follow the green trend sooner rather than later.
Cloud Computing Leads to Dematerialization
Dematerialization refers to replacing high-carbon physical materials with virtual equivalents. For instance, cloud computing offers online video streaming services instead of using materials for playing and storing videos (e.g., a DVD and a DVD player).
Migrating to the cloud allows you to use less hardware and machinery, leading to lesser waste. As a result, your company will pay lower bills for energy and equipment acquisition or maintenance. You will then be able to allocate these funds for other profitable ventures.
Cloud Computing Supports Remote Work
Since cloud computing technology allows employees to access the data they need without reporting to the office, fewer employees will need to drive or ride the bus to work. In other words, cloud computing indirectly helps reduce automobile emissions.
Additionally, since the data is already available online, printing thousand-page reports and references diminish. More importantly, a company’s capacity to enable people to work from home is crucial in this pandemic.
Conclusion: Cloud computing reduces carbon footprint
Producing net-zero emissions is the newest green goal for countries and businesses alike. A company can reduce its carbon footprint through all the methods listed above with cloud computing.
Specifically, cloud computing centers use less energy, and most of them run on renewable energy. Moving to the cloud helps you cut down the use of materials and even greenhouse gas emissions from commuting employees.
As a result, your carbon footprint goes down significantly.