sustainableIT has operated in the field of IT and energy efficiency for the past 7 years and during this time we have implemented PC power management solutions at some of the largest and most complex organisations in South Africa.

In the face of significant load shedding threats as well as a potential 20% tariff hike in June (should Eskom get their way) we thought it would be useful to share some of our experiences in the area of PC power management based on real life engagements.

Does it really make a difference if we power off our PC’s?

South Africa operates within an energy constrained environment and in recent times rolling black outs have been the order of the day. Government and Eskom are constantly asking us all, including business, to power off and conserve energy.

Modern PC’s really vary when it comes to energy consumption.  Small form factors or ‘lunch boxes’ use as little as 20 watts of energy but a standard desktop ranges from 40 watts to 80 watts depending on processing capabilities.  Add to this your LCD monitor of around 20 or 30 watts and your range is anywhere between 40 and 100 watts to power your PC.  This is essentially the same as 2 forty watt downlighters.

When we look at the financial cost and assuming just a 50 watt average, if powered on constantly for 48 weeks (catering for holidays) the cost to power this device comes to R480 per year based on an average energy rate of R1,20 per kWh.

The PC is on but nobody is home

But how many of your PC’s are left on?  What we find is many PC’s are left on for various reasons.  This varies from around 40 to 50% in what we call non-managed environments, i.e. those customers with little or no systems management infrastructure in place and who do not actively manage their desktop infrastructure, to as much as 80% in managed environments where the IT department actively manages desktops around patching and software distribution.  In fact in the latter scenario users are actually told to leave their PC’s on (but not all of them do).

The business case to power these devices off makes absolute financial and business sense.  If you assume 50% of your devices are left on and we can power them off for 12 hours a day the savings on average per PC are around R120 per desktop per year.  Over 10 000 PC’s this is R1.2M rand in savings and we are being pretty conservative.

Shut down is only the start; wake up is where the real value begins

The number one reason we encounter as to why solutions such as PC power management (NightWatchman Enterprise) are not implemented is due to the fact that the IT department wants to ‘manage’ these devices overnight.  In other words they want to perform virus scans, update the operating system etc.

What we find however is that their success rates vary because despite communications, many end users power their machines down.  The stats listed above back this up and this is consistent across all organisations we work with.

When we implement and deploy wake-on-lan technologies that work, the success of these operational tasks increase significantly.  Our experiences indicate ranges from 30 to 60% success rates in day one patching and deployments before we implement to double these figures out of the box without any workstation or network remediation at all.  Once we identify and remediate troublesome PC’s with some simple to deploy fixes, these rates get into the 95% plus success bracket.

The reduced risk that this provides to an organisation is actually immeasurable and the argument that PC’s are left on to reduce risk actually becomes redundant.

Actively power managing a device, either up or down is becoming critical, both to save energy and to reduce your security threats and risk exposure.

Author: Tim James, Director, sustainableIT

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