Save money this winter: Five tips for low-energy business computing

Energy efficiency isn't just for the data center. Here's how to save some greenbacks by powering down out front.

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Energy savings can add up. Brown estimates that Gwinnett Hospital System is already saving between $30,000 and $60,000 a year in electricity costs by replacing about 70% of its CRTs with LCD monitors and using automated power management tools.

4. Slim down the client

As for the desktop, look for equipment that is Energy Star 4.0 compliant. Previous Energy Star ratings looked only at low-power modes, but "with this new version, we're comparing energy use while working," the EPA's Kaplan says. Computers that meet the standard consume 20% to 50% less energy than those that meet previous Energy Star standards, says Kaplan.

Compact PC models, such as Lenovo's ThinkCentre A61e desktop or Dell's Inspiron 531, are more efficient than standard desktops and save space as well as power (the A61e is about the size of a 3-inch-thick notebook binder). Compact PCs may use as little as half the power of a standard desktop, include Energy Star 4.0-mandated high-efficiency power supplies that are at least 80% efficient and include a low-speed fan that reduces noise levels.

Many businesses, including Jenny Craig, are moving to a Terminal Services or Citrix Presentation Server setup, which enables them to use easily managed thin client PCs on the desktop. Thin clients use less power and space, since they have no disk drive or fan, and the Windows session and applications run on the server.

For Jenny Craig, the noise factor was as important as energy savings when choosing Wyse Technology's thin clients. "When you throw 10 or 12 PCs into a front desk, you can't hear your customers anymore," says Alessandra Nicoletti, director of IT operations. So she moved the stores onto a Citrix Presentation Server back end and Java applications, and populated 484 Jenny Craig centers with thin clients from Wyse, which don't need a fan. Operating power consumption ranges from 6 to 35 watts, and power management settings can be locked and remotely managed.

While replacing PCs with thin clients does require adding servers on the back end that boost power requirements, the savings on the desktop more than make up for that, says Jeff McNaught, chief marketing officer at Wyse. With the 64-bit edition of Presentation Server running on the back end, 1,000 PCs can be accommodated on three 800-watt servers. That amounts to about 3 watts per client, he says.

Jenny Craig's system uses 90% less energy than the PCs it replaced. "We see it on the bills [for the centers]," Nicoletti says.

Waghray says thin clients had other benefits in Verizon Wireless' call centers, where equipment density is high and space is at a premium. "We have seen a reduction in cooling needs for the whole building," he says.

For all their energy-saving benefits, thin clients won't work in every case, such as for some graphics or compute-intensive applications. Northrup Grumman Corp.'s space technology sector is rolling out 3,000 thin clients and has tested 39 engineering applications. While most ran just fine, a few graphics-intensive ones didn't work, says Clayton Kau, vice president of engineering.

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