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How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Cloud Technology

Computers have become indispensable.

As highlighted by Kuehr and Williams, day-to-day life revolves around information technology (henceforth, I.T.). And while technological advancements have had many positive environmental impacts due to increased product efficiency and the production of renewable energy through wind and solar farms etc., I.T.’s negative ecological impact is still astronomical.

Here at Theo Tech, we believe that cloud technology is one way businesses can reduce their carbon footprint and help tackle global warming. That being said, cloud technology is a very broad statement. So, what technology are we referring it particularly?

We are talking about VDI & Thin Clients.

Now, it is quite likely that people don’t know what these are. So, I will begin by providing a brief description of both.

What is VDI?

VDI stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and it allows users to access a virtualised version of their desktop environment remotely from any device, regardless of where they are in the world – all they need is a stable internet connection.

As with anything cloud-based, one of the most common questions is – well, where is my data? With VDI, your data can be stored in-house in purpose-built data centres or, more commonly, in remote third-party data centres.

The perks of VDI are numerous. From reduced I.T. costs and increased cyber security to improved I.T. management and flexibility – the pros far outweigh the cons.

What are Thin Clients?

As for thin clients, they have been around for years; however, their use has changed. A thin client is a low-power, low-cost, desktop-replacement docking station that, in this instance, can access a virtualised desktop environment without needing a local PC.

They are cost-effective, space-efficient (given that they are usually only slightly larger than a smartphone), low maintenance, and extremely energy efficient.

So, how are these technologies sustainable?

Well, this can be broken down into four sections:

- Remote Access

- Energy Efficiency

- Increased Lifespan

- Lifecycle & Rebound Effect

Remote Access

One of our mottos is ‘live anywhere, work anywhere,’ and with VDI, that is achievable. As explained previously, a VDI enables users to access their desktop environment from any device, anywhere in the world.

Thanks to VDI, hybrid working is as simple as ever!

In terms of sustainability, this can lead to reduced transport emissions as fewer people need to travel to an office. Subsequently, office emissions come down since less office space is required meaning less heating, electricity & lighting emissions.

Energy Efficiency

Furthermore, thin clients use as little as one-tenth of the electricity that traditional desktops do. So, by replacing your desktops with low-power thin clients, you could reduce your office desktop emissions by up to one-tenth.

Does low power mean low performance? With thin clients, no.

The computer's power is based solely on the power of the cloud desktop you have purchased rather than the power of the local device. This means that you could run a cloud supercomputer and produce the same amount of emissions as if you were running the lowest-spec cloud desktop.

Comparatively, a local device with similar specs to the cloud supercomputer would produce up to five times more emissions than a traditional desktop or one-hundred times more missions than a thin client.

Increased Lifespan

One of the most significant issues facing sustainable technology is e-waste. According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of waste electronic & electrical equipment were generated in 2019, and this figure is only continuing to rise.

With VDI and Thin Clients, there are two approaches to this. Firstly, by using a local device to connect to a cloud desktop, the hard work is covered by the cloud desktop, not the local device. This means that the lifespan of local hardware is extended significantly. Since most computers are discarded after 3-4 years, we could dramatically reduce the rate at which hardware is improperly recycled using cloud desktops.

Furthermore, one of the primary reasons behind hardware being discarded improperly or hoarded is the fear that hackers could obtain sensitive information from the discarded hardware even once wiped. With cloud desktops, no data is stored locally, so there are no valid reasons not to recycle hardware properly.

As for the thin clients, they have lifespans of up to 10 years, and most of them are entirely recyclable, making them the perfect desktop replacements.

Lifecycle & Rebound Effect

Finally, most people are solely concerned about the use-stage and end-of-life emissions of hardware – which is fine since you are not responsible for any pre-purchase emissions; however, if you are conscious about entire lifecycle emissions, this is where thin clients come into their own.

With thin clients, you can reduce emissions at every stage of the device lifecycle. Since they require fewer natural resources to build, extraction emissions come down; since they are significantly smaller, they reduce manufacturing, packaging and transport emissions; and as demonstrated already, their use-stage and end-of-life emissions are significantly reduced.

What all this does is combat the rebound effect that is common amongst efficient tech.

The rebound effect is straightforward – buy a more fuel-efficient car, drive more. Usually, efficiency results in increased emissions because of increased usage and emissions going up elsewhere. By reducing emissions throughout the lifecycle, thin clients and cloud desktops can avoid the rebound effect and truly revolutionise sustainable tech.

If you're interested in deploying a VDI & thin client solution in your business, check out our products page.


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