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Green Web Hosting: Going the extra mile

Mohammed NaserMohammed Naser

There are plenty of hosts out there claiming to be green only by buying renewable energy credits and not by taking the correct measures of decreases their power usage. Sure, renewable energy credits sound like a smart idea of “fixing” what you have caused, however, the consequences of what has been created have already been done.

We think of green web hosting in a different matter. We believe that we can provide a great service and also truly and literally reduce our environmental impact, not just by getting credits. Inside our offices and our datacenter, we are constantly looking for ways of reducing power usage (the biggest issues when working with a lot of computers and servers!)

To start everything, electricity is provided to both our data centers and offices from Hydro-Quebec. Hydro-Quebec is a government-owned corporation that generates, transmits and distributes electricity in the entire province of Quebec. With sixty hydroelectric stations, Hydro-Quebec is the largest electricity generator in Canada and one of the world's largest hydroelectric generating companies. What this means is that all the power that we utilize is renewable hydroelectric energy that causes almost no pollution when being generated. However, we don't just stop there, just because we get power from a renewable source doesn't mean we can do whatever we'd like with it.

Inside our offices, we don't use desktops anymore. On every desk, there is an Apple MacBook Pro installed with a 24" LED Cinema Screen. The amount of power that a laptop uses compared to a regular desktop is much less as well as it gives the ability for our representatives to grab their workstation anywhere they can go.

Instead of running Ethernet inside the entire office, we've opted for an 802.11N wireless network, they can reach speeds of up to 108Mbps and that's more than needed for an office (no, we don't use wireless networks on our servers ;]) therefore, less wiring, less mess and less environmental impact. Our telephone system is entirely VoIP and connected to each workstation, so there is no need for phones, we have softphones installed on every Macbook Pro.

However, most of our power savings come from our datacenters. Our data centers are extremely well cooled therefore after experimenting with servers, we found that there is no increase in server temperature when setting the fan setting to “Acoustic”. The acoustic setting lowers fan speeds (and there are a lot of fans in a server!). Also, we have opted to use Intel's SpeedStep technology that underclocks the CPU's frequency when it's idle, when there is load, it will clock it back to default speed to process with no performance difference. We have also made some experiments and we have seen a big decrease in power when using Intel's LV (low voltage) series of CPUs, they have the same exact power however run at a lower voltage.

One of the biggest power-saving methods we have is virtualization, we are a certified and authorized Citrix XenServer partner and using their virtualization services has permitted us to consolidate multiple physical servers to one or two virtualized physical servers for all of our internal services.

All this is done to lower energy costs to provide you with a much affordable service and decrease our environmental impact. We hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any suggestions on how we can decrease power in our daily operations, feel free to do so!

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