You've likely heard that implementing green initiatives to reduce power consumption can save companies money—but just how much money are we talking about? The results of a recent survey sponsored by Kaseya and conducted by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) are helping to answer this and other questions that are likely on the minds of IT professionals who are thinking about starting a green IT initiative. One green initiative in which the survey covers is implementing power-management policies in workstations (e.g., desktops, laptops).

What are the actual energy costs?
You can't determine how much money you'll save by implementing power-management policies in workstations if you don't have an idea of how much power is being consumed by those workstations in their current configurations. To get an idea of how workstations' power-management settings are typically configured, EMA, an IT management analyst and consulting firm, surveyed 250 employees and 108 IT professionals from businesses, government institutions, and other professional organizations about their workstations' configurations.

"The most interesting finding to me was that more than half of the computers that were out there don't have any kind of power-management policy at all," said Dan Shapero, senior vice president of marketing at Kaseya, a global provider of IT automation software. "And 24% of the respondents said that they keep their workstations powered on 100% of the time."

"The second most interesting finding was that workstations, such as desktops and laptops, represent about 90% of the computing environment for most of the companies surveyed. So, for 90% of the computers, less than half have any kind of policy management when it comes to power."

Using the survey's data on actual workstation uptime, active-use time, and power-management settings and the U.S. Department of Energy's data on the average power consumption of desktops and laptops and the national average cost of electricity, EMA calculated that the average cost to power the respondents' desktops is $149.10 a year. The average cost to power the respondents' laptops is considerably less—$23.26 a year—because laptops are inherently designed to be more power efficient. Here's what that cost equates to when you have many workstations:

How much money can be saved?
To answer the question of how much money can be saved, you have to do a little math. On average, the survey found that desktops are kept on during 43% of nonwork hours (e.g., evenings, weekends). If you subtract the number of hours in the traditional work week (40) from the number of hours in a week (168), you find that there are 128 nonwork hours in a week. Thus, the survey found that desktops are kept operational but aren't being used an average of 55 hours each week (128 x 0.43). Once again, using the U.S. Department of Energy's data on desktops' average power consumption and the cost of electricity, this equates to an additional power cost of about $73 per desktop each year.

"It turns out you can save $73 per year per desktop for a machine that's already consuming about $150 of energy per year," said Shapero. "That might not seem like a lot when you talk about one computer or even 10 computers, but when you have 100 computers, that's $7,300."

In other words, if your company is one in which people leave their desktops on most of the time and desktops represent most of the computer environment, you can save almost half of the money you're spending on their power consumption, as the following shows:

Admittedly, these figures represent the best possible savings. The actual amount of savings will vary, depending on a multitude of factors, such as whether more power-efficient desktops are being used, whether employees work longer than the traditional 40-hour work week, and whether some employees turn off their computers some of the time. For example, in the survey, more than 60 of the surveyed IT professionals indicated that their IT organizations that have implemented a green IT initiative. Out of that group, 32% have automated their power-management policies, which have resulted in an average power cost reduction of 20.5%.

"I think automated power management is one of the quicker and easier ways to get a return on your investment," said Shapero. "So, if you're looking to deploy a green IT initiative without having to invest in a lot of infrastructure, I think power-management automation is a great way to go green."

Much more covered
Managing power settings on workstations is only one of many green initiatives that IT professionals can implement. The survey provides insights into those other initiatives as well. For example, the survey found that servers are the top consumer of power in data centers, accounting for 31% of the data center's total power consumption. In the survey white paper "The True Value of Green IT," EMA notes that if a company's servers need to support a 24x7 business production environment, green initiatives such as server consolidation and virtualization offer the greatest opportunity for reducing data centers' power consumption. In a 24x7 environment, an automated power management solution alone would provide little improvement for power reduction because the opportunity for down time is small.

You can download a copy of "The True Value of Green IT" from Kaseya's website. This 40-page white paper is free but registration is required.

Other green IT surveys

Examples of power-management products