Finding a company that’s able to host your website can be a difficult process, and there are a number of issues involved with finding one that’s right for you. One problem that often ends up being overlooked by website operators is the environmental impact of hosting services. Modern web servers are energy hogs, and there are a number of reasons that companies may wish to use less than eco-friendly solutions in order to keep costs down.
What’s the Problem?
Web servers and data centers often end up having massive carbon footprints. What’s worse is that remotely hosted services tend to fall into the category of problems that are best described as “out of sight and out of mind.” Most web hosting customers simply do not care what the environmental impact of a website is, largely because it is hard to even picture the idea that a web page is contributing to worldwide increases in pollution.
According to an article published by Computer World, all of the data centers operating in the United States today require the output of 34 500-megawatt power plants to function. The bulk of that electricity that is powering those computers comes from power plants that are fired by fossil fuels, especially coal. By 2020, the demand from data centers is expected to increase a full 50-percent beyond current levels.
How Can This Problem Be Confronted?
The frontline of the eco-friendly server movement is manned by companies that are building data centers that are connected to wind, hydro and solar power sources. The ideal solution is to find a website hosting firm that utilizes on-site sources of power that have low carbon footprints, and, failing that, to find a company that has a contract with a nearby power plant that’s environmentally friendly. A lot of companies try to shuffle around their carbon consumption totals by purchasing offset contracts with other businesses that are running greener operations, so it’s a good idea to ask about these issues before committing to a host. Many eco-conscious business owners may object to such shuffling of carbon credits, as it doesn’t directly address the problem and ensure that a particular website is in fact not contributing to global carbon output.
The certification process is currently less than ideal, although there are a number of companies that offer badges that can be placed on hosting sites to attest to their eco-friendliness. The most consistent answers are likely to come from the Environmental Protection Agency, which operates a green power certification program and tracks participants in its Green Power Partnership. Unfortunately, industry-sponsored non-profits that provide certification have yet to have grown to any real size, and that limits the ability of website operators to find hosts that are properly certified to be using only green energy sources to power their operations.
Questions to Ask
You should not take a few badges on a hosting company’s website at face value; ask questions about the green practices that are in place within a firm’s data centers. What percentage of a company’s servers is being powered by wind, solar or hydroelectric? Does the company have rules in place to prevent ghost servers from sitting around and consuming electricity while doing nothing of real value? How does the company plan to address growing energy consumption needs over the next decade? The best way to see that a problem like this is being addressed in a meaningful fashion is to let businesses know that it is important to you. Hosting companies want new business, and they will work hard to build configurations that suit their customers’ demands. If eco-friendly hosting is to become an industry standard, it must be something that website operators regularly require of hosting companies.
Modern data centers are shockingly inefficient operations, and most hosting firms place a greater emphasis on building out capacity than reducing costs. It is critical that website operators ask companies what they’re doing to reduce costs by putting processes in place to prevent wasteful use of electricity. Likewise, you should ask what a company is doing to pass those savings along to the customer and how it is reinvesting profits to pursue future green projects.
Due to the lack of a single, industry-wide body that certifies the use environmentally friendly sources of energy within the hosting world, it can be a bit of a crap shoot to find one that’s suitable to host your website. The most important tool you have at your disposal is the ability to ask questions. Do not take a few badges posted on a web page as proof that a company has done all that it can do to make its data centers as green as possible. Seek answers to tough questions, and soon you’ll be able to find a web host that really is doing its best to be a better citizen of the planet.