A growing number of businesses are looking for ways to reduce the costs of running and managing their corporate PCs as the recession drives up the pressure on all parts of a business-including IT-to do what they can to reduce facility expenses.
However, more than half of businesses that say they have green PC programs in place rely primarily on users agreeing to power down their machines or activate power management settings, according to a report from Forrester Research.
A small percentage of surveyed businesses currently have proactive software-based PC management programs in place, although a growing number are either ramping up such programs or are considering it, according to the report, released April 10. Forrester surveyed 91 IT professionals.
"Right now there is a significant amount of interest in PC power management," said Doug Washburn, the lead analyst on the report. "Given the recession, there is more interest in using IT to help reduce overall facility costs."
Over the past few years, when talking about green IT, much of the attention has focused on data center systems, including servers and storage devices, Washburn said. However, some businesses are finding that IT assets outside of the data center-such as PCs, monitors and peripherals-can account for as much as 55 percent of overall IT power consumption.
In a traditional corporate PC environment, most machines are used 8 to 9 hours a day, five days a week, Washburn said. That means that for 15 to 16 hours each day and 48 hours on the weekend, the PCs are essentially unused, he said. With that in mind, IT attention is being turned to the PC environment.
However, Washburn said, "When we asked how they're doing it, it's very much being done on an ad hoc basis." Either companies asking their employees to take the initiative to power down the systems when they're not in use, or the company is preactivating PC power management settings-which some employees are turning off.
In the survey, 13 percent of respondents said they had a widely scaled PC power management plan in place, while 30 percent either had one in place that needed to scale or had a pilot program under way. Another 48 percent said they had no plan in place, but were considering it.
Of those surveyed, 28 percent said their top plan was asking employees to turn their computers down or off when they're not being used, and 24 percent said they preactivated power management settings on their employees' systems. Thirteen percent used fee-based power management software from the likes of BigFix, Verdiem or 1E, and 5 percent said they used free or open-source solutions.
However, Washburn said more companies are looking at fee-based software packages as possible solutions. "I'm very bullish in this space," he said.
In the survey, 7 percent said they already are using software to enable PC power management policies, and another 20 percent said they are evaluating products. Thirty-seven percent said they have no interest currently, but would consider it, and another 22 percent said they had no interest in it at all.
IT departments face some power management challenges, a key one being that users may not tolerate power management steps taken in their systems if it hinders productivity, Washburn said. In addition, in the past, IT departments never had a strong sense of ownership over the issue. The facilities department paid the bills on power usage and, until recently, few companies asked their IT pros to weigh in on facility costs, he said.
That's changing, thanks in a large part to the recession, Washburn said. Now IT departments are being asked to help out. IT pros need to get a handle on what their current situation is-how many PCs they have, whether they have any sort of power management policies in place and how effective those policies are-and then be able to justify the business case for spending money to implement a software-based program. IT management needs to let company executives know how these software solutions can save the business money, Washburn said.
And similar to what some companies are doing in the data center-bringing together the IT and facilities staffs to work on energy efficiency-IT departments need to work with facilities groups to help solve the issue of PC power management, he said.
Washburn also said an IT department needs a CIO who can talk with other C-level executives and who can champion plans for implementing PC power management programs. And they need to ensure employee buy-in to any policy they implement, he said.