Green IT is a hot issue in IT. It has been calculated that the IT equipment deployed worldwide accounts for about the same amount of CO² emissions as international air traffic. In the years ahead, a product's green credentials will be a key criterion in the buying decision of the enterprise, not only because energy costs will continue to rise, but also in view of ethical and moral considerations. The time to 'go green' is now.
Telecommunications must also do its part in conserving resources.
Looking at the bigger picture of today's energy resource consumption, three key factors stand out. Firstly, the electrical power and energy requirements of communications systems such as telephone systems, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) switches, end devices, and unified communications solutions. Secondly, CO² emissions and resource consumption associated with producing, shipping, and disposing of communications systems and finally, potential energy savings and a smaller CO² footprint enabled by the smarter use of enterprise communications.
Raymond Padayachee, chief executive at Siemens Enterprise Communications says: "Telecommunications has always been an efficiency enhancer, a powerful means of sparing resources. From telegraphy's inception, telecommunications has vastly reduced the amount of energy expended on transporting people and mail. In the past, phone systems required convection cooling, which is a large consumer of power.
"The total electrical connected load of phone systems with 1 000 extensions ranged up to 5.4 kilowatts, and their cooling systems consumed at least as much power." The switch to IP telephony and unified communications will represent the first major change in voice communications since the digital PABX and cellular phone changes in the 1970s and 1980s.
Modern unified communication solutions converge the different communication media and means within enterprises, boosting the productivity and mobility of the workforce and the entire company. More efficient enterprises use energy more efficiently.
"The purpose of an energy-saving green solution goes beyond pacifying decision-makers' conscience, the enterprise leader is also looking to cut power consumption to drive down operational costs. This is precisely the point at which economics and ecology meet. As a result, market analysts are predicting a resurgence of interest in teleworking," says Padayachee.
Telework occurs when information and communications technologies (ICTs) are applied to enable work to be done at a distance from the place where the work results are needed, or where the work would conventionally have been done. The International Data Group (IDG), a provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets is predicting that almost 75% of the US workforce will be mobile by the end of 2011. On a global level, more than 122-million employees worldwide are expected to be working from home at least part of the time by 2011.
"The challenge is for organizations to make this movement work for them. As 'Generation Y' comes of age, the ability to work flexibly, from home or other locations, will become an expectation rather than a 'nice to have'. The South African workforce has begun to mirror this trend and the technology to support mobility is already in place with our unified communications solutions offering," says Padayachee.
Unified communications helps businesses address environmental concerns with teleconferencing, videoconferencing, remote collaboration tools that support teleworking and more. Unified communications as software rather than special purpose hardware frequently requires less energy to deliver the same functionality.
Teleworking will shrink a company's carbon footprint by reducing travel and energy consumption. 'Green' companies who utilize up to date ICT technology can experience numerous cost savings and productivity benefits associated with teleworking. These include reducing expensive office space, as fewer permanent desks are needed, attracting and keeping the best talent pool – despite location or salary constraints, being better able to respond to customers outside normal working hours as well as resilience to unforeseen crises such as traffic congestion and remote office locations.
The first step towards embracing a "green" change positively must be to set down a formal strategy for teleworking and conversion to a unified communications platform. Emphasis must be placed on harnessing the latest communications and collaboration technology to enable fully-functional working from any location.