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SharePoint Online: Leaving a smaller carbon footprint

There’s a reason why Iceland, Russia, Latvia, and Canada are ranked as favorable countries for locating data centers—it’s cheaper to keep servers cool in a cool climate. Duh.  

Still, many small, midsized, and large companies run do-it-yourself data centers of various sizes, paying a chunk of money to cool their servers in regions with 100-degree heat and 90 percent humidity. Whether you think this is a) immoral, b) stupid, or c) the best we can do given our circumstances, the reality is, you’re not about to build a data center in Iceland, so you’re stuck.

Not so, says Microsoft, which, as you might have heard, has recently discovered and embraced The Cloud as its own long-lost offspring. Microsoft commissioned a study that compared the energy use and carbon emissions per user for Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM with their cloud-based equivalents: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Dynamics CRM Online.  

The cloud, of course, won. Here are the findings, according to Microsoft: “When small organizations (100 users) move to the cloud, the effective carbon footprint reduction could be up to a 90 percent savings by using a shared cloud environment instead of their own local servers. For large corporations, the savings are typically 30 percent or more in energy consumption and carbon emissions using cloud applications.”

Why? Basically, economies of scale rule—larger is cheaper and more efficient. The study offers four reasons:

1. Large operations enable better matching of server capacity to demand on an ongoing basis.

2. Large public cloud environments are able to serve millions of users at thousands of companies simultaneously on one massive shared infrastructure.

3. Cloud providers can make server capacity more efficient, thereby performing higher workloads with a smaller infrastructure footprint.

4. Cloud providers have the incentive and the means to design, build, and operate datacenters that use energy efficiently.

There's more about the methodology and the deployment sizes at the Microsoft website.

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