DougwashburnThe rolodex of Green IT projects available to IT leadership is seemingly endless. But at some point, prioritization is necessary, and IT professionals tend to gravitate to those projects that produce an acceptable financial return with the path of least resistance. And in recent interactions with Forrester clients, it's becoming clear that PC power management — the act of powering down PCs when not in use (e.g. nights, weekends) — is one of those projects IT leadership are willing to act on.

Do I agree? In short yes. And here’s why: PC power management can reduce costs, cheaply and effectively, while at the same time help justify more strategic IT investments and improve your green "credentials." Let me elaborate:

  1. Save money — and lots of it. The top motivation for pursuing greener IT is to "reduce the energy-related operating expenses of IT." And PC power management can do this very effectively. By powering down PCs during periods of inactivity, Energy Star estimates that firms can save $25 to $75 per PC per year. Take AT&T as a real-world example. By powering down their 300,000 PCs during non-working hours, AT&T expects to save more than 135m kilowatt hours of electricity —  assume an average U.S. price per kilowatt of $.095, savings top $12.8m per year.
  2. Reduce costs without capital expenditure. While more energy-efficient equipment and computing architectures (e.g. Energy Star-rated PCs and monitors, thin clients) are a surefire way to reduce energy costs and environmental impact they require capital investment. So if you're seeking effective cost-saving tactics with zero to little investment, get familiar with PC power management. There are a variety of tools to assist in implementing power management organization wide. Many of these tools are free while some are license fee based, but include added features, such as reporting or advanced provisioning and power management settings.
  3. Address your most energy-consuming environment. What consumes more energy: your data center, or the IT assets outside of your data center? According to a recent Forrester survey, IT professionals report that more electricity is used outside the data center by a margin of 10%. While every organization is different, recognize that your energy reduction efforts in the PC environment might offer a larger payoff than in the data center.
  4. Justify investments in client management suite technology. One of the biggest challenges IT ops professionals face is managing an increasingly distributed and heterogeneous client environment. Client management suite technology can help by automating software distribution, patches, and general systems management. And some vendors — such as 1E, BigFix, LANDesk, and ScriptLogic — are even starting to offer PC power management capabilities. So if you're struggling to justify budget, reallocate the dollars saved from PC power management to improving the ROI on client management suite investments.
  5. Demonstrate your commitment greener business practices. While the primary motivation for Green IT is financial, the second most popular driver is to "doing the right thing for the environment." And curbing the energy consumption of your PC environment in turn cuts emissions related to global climate change. To paraphrase the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, the average desktop PC wastes half of the energy it consumes and by turning on energy-saving features you can reduce your CO2 emissions by nearly half a ton.


As a final thought: PC power management should be on every IT professional's checklist of low-hanging fruit to reduce costs — regardless of whether or not IT owns the electricity bill. As a first step, define and optimize your approach to PC power management to estimate potential savings, then determine if your client management suite or PC outsourcer can offer power management functionality. My report "How Much Money Are Your Idle PCs Wasting?" and teleconference "Saving Money While Greening Your IT With PC Power Management" walks you through this in detail.

Free PC Power Management Webinar: As an additional resource, I'd like to call out the IT Power Management Summit — a free webinar hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. The intent is to get IT professionals educated on the benefits of PC power management, but most importantly overcome implementation obstacles. There are a number of excellent presenters, including yours truly. I strongly suggest attending to help you move from PC power management awareness to action:

IT Power Management Summit

March 30, 2009, from 12:00-2:00pm EST

Click here to register

By Doug Washburn

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