How Can Organisations Utilise The Cloud To Drive Sustainability

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In this article, Robert Belgrave, CEO of Pax8 EMEA, explains how companies can use the cloud to push forward sustainability. 

The topic of sustainability has never been higher on the public agenda, and as sustainability shifts from a non-essential practice for organisations, towards a ‘must have’, so must an organisation’s approach towards it. The use of cloud technology enables businesses to make this transition and global organisations already using this technology, are experiencing the benefits.

The cloud not only provides an increase in accessibility, flexibility and overall security to its users, but also holds significant sustainable value as it reduces carbon emissions, energy waste, and costs, and altogether redirects organisations to move towards a greener future. Cloud computing can therefore act as a pioneer in achieving sustainability.

The exponential growth of the cloud in recent years couldn’t have been timed any better given the current state of the environment and as a result, companies worldwide now require a solution which addresses every level of a business. With world climate experts in agreement that individuals, governments, and everyone in between, should take more action in response to their impact on the environment, the call for a more sustainable approach has never been louder. This is where cloud technology comes into play.

Waving Goodbye To Traditional Data Centres

During cloud computing’s early stages, the consensus was that the increase in traditional data centres used to power the cloud would heighten their negative impact on the environment. Undoubtedly, these data centres required tons of electricity to operate, draining power supplies whilst also demanding high maintenance. In fact, data centres have been responsible for approximately 2% of greenhouse gas emissions: nearly the equivalent of the entire global airline industry. 

However, these concerns were quickly brushed aside as the rise of newly constructed data centres – used to power the cloud – were built using the latest sustainable technologies and powered by renewable energy sources. Fossil fuel usage is now a thing of the past for cloud users as they are becoming more ecologically responsible and it’s this growing trend of businesses migrating to the cloud which has provided a unique opportunity to become more environmentally conscious.

Organisations which use the cloud share the same data centres as other cloud users. Naturally, less money is required for maintenance as they do not individually self-power the data centre. Due to resources being shared, and cloud vendors working on behalf of various businesses, cloud computing reduces the total number of data centres needed, thereby lowering the overall carbon footprint.

Before the emergence of the cloud, corporations needed to plan their capacity in advance to purchase the appropriate hardware to scale up their business. However, the cloud enables organisations to increase their capacity when needed without making significant changes to the infrastructure in place, allowing for a seamless experience when scaling.

The Scaling Of Renewable Energy Sources

Some organisations may not be aware that by migrating to the cloud, they are not only helping to drive sustainability within their businesses, but they are also a part of a wider sustainable movement. For instance, cloud vendors are now acting in response to the environmental challenges faced today by further increasing the amount of renewable energy they use, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Renewable energy sources emit no carbon emissions, do not require any water for cooling and have a minimal negative impact on the environment.

Wind and solar energy are the most cost-effective energy sources, pricing better than their fossil-fueled competitors. According to UK Government figures, the cost of renewable energy has reduced dramatically which can be attributed to the following reasons: technological advancements in the industry, more competitive supply chains, and the economies of scale. The already-low price is set to continue to reduce with wind and solar energy expected to cost half as much as gas in 2025. Consequently, cloud computing, fuelled by renewable energy sources, operates in a financially sustainable fashion through its cost-effectiveness.

Renewable energy is the resource the world needs to achieve a sustainable, greener future and cloud vendors, having made commitments to achieve 100% renewable energy across all of their operations, recognise this. As a result of these commitments, the IDC estimates that cloud computing could eliminate 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2024. Organisations that operate using the cloud are not only helping to improve sustainability in the short-term, but are also committing to a sustainable long-term approach as well.

A Greener Cloud On A Smaller Scale

As well as reducing carbon emissions from methods outside of an organisation, carbon output can also be reduced from methods within their internal operations. For instance, the cloud offers increased flexibility in the workspace and achieves this by removing computer and data-storage issues. By depending on other organisations to manage these types of IT-related problems, it enables more time to be allocated to other, more essential aspects of the business.

Moreover, the cloud offers multiple access to the same document on a range of devices. Staff who commute long distances or work remotely can use this feature to keep in contact with the workspace, improving flexibility, and efficiency, allowing an organisation to operate more productively. Moreover, the pandemic has transformed how organisations work, which has enabled cloud technology to assist the adopted hybrid working environment. With this altered way of working, fewer staff members are driving to work, which contributes to reducing global waste.

Cloud Computing Taking The World By Storm

Cloud computing is transforming the technology sector in many different ways including an increase in: efficiency, mobility, scalability, and control, all whilst being cost-effective. As cloud computing continues to expand, its impact will not only be felt in the technology sector, but on the environment as well. The cloud removes the negative externalities associated with traditional data centres and introduces renewable energy sources along with its benefits, all whilst bringing a range of internal benefits to an organisation. Therefore, cloud computing directly solves the problem of the environmental challenges faced today, reduces the costs of an organisation, and consequently steers businesses in the right direction as they venture on their sustainable journey.

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