Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Power Management and your PCs

Turning off a pc out of hours saves energy, therefore money and green house gas emissions.   It therefore seems simple enough that we should all turn our pc's off when we leave the office or home.  Many office users and home pc users don't do this however for a variety of reasons.  The statistics about how many are hard to quantify, figures of between 30% and 70% leaving their pc's powered on have been found in various industries, whilst in the recent survey by only 13% of respondents owned up to it.  Whichever figure is true this is still a massive number of users, wasted energy, and unneccessary contributions to pollution and climate change.  Of course one of the major drivers is cost, estimates say the UK wastes £300 Million per year (PC Energy Report 2009).

There are some who still cling on to outdated information about power cycling being bad for the hard drives.  Not true anymore, hasn't been for many years.  Our modern hard drives are rated at 40,000 power ons, something your unlikely to achieve turning your pc off at night a couple of hundred times a year.  As hard drives spin constantly when on, as well as being prone to heat stress, there's even some belief that it will prolong their lives to turn them off.  Check any hard drive manufacturers website on whether powering up damages their drives if you still aren't convinced.

For others it's the boot up time, pc's take time to initialise the operating system and programmes, and then these days you have a number of network based services that need to be synchronised, and on an overloaded network or server that can all take some time.  For these users, hibernating the machine is a good option.  Hibernation writes the current state of your desktop and applications to disk and then powers down the computer.  When you turn it back on, it should be back to the state you had it at previously in less than a minute, with thirty seconds being a more usual time, shorter than the time it takes to say good morning to your colleagues.

Of course there is still a minority of office computer users who won't power down their machines.  Rather than continue an intellectual debate that was decisively settled by the drive manufacturers in the last century, you should probably turn to a power management solution.

The most difficult thing about choosing a power management solution is the vast array of products out there.  From large commercial products with plenty of features such as centralised reporting, to some free community supported offerings, to programmes for individual pcs, the choice is not an easy one.  Which you choose is largely a matter of budget, and what features you need.

As an environmental charity we don't have the infrastructure to test all of these programmes, but this post will get you up to speed on what is currently out there and what we know about their feature set.  We'll be very interested in hearing about your individual experiences with these products.

Centralised Commercial Applications
Generally these applications only make sense for larger organisations.  Depending on the product you should start seeing return on investment at about 50-100 employees.  All of these offer centralised reporting of power savings and costs, usually via a web interface with graphs, downloadable statistics etc.

1e - Nightwatchman
1e is headquartered in the UK and the US.  Nightwatchman is similar to Surveyor, but also has other functionality on top so may be something for people looking for other central management features.  They have won the contract to provide energy management solutions to the UK government and claim to scale to up to 200,000 pcs.  They offer a free 30 day trial.

They also offer some interesting products like “Wake on Web”, which allows your users who need to access their pc’s out of hours to wake them up from a website.
Headquartered in Seattle, Verdiem have offices in the UK.  They offer a free 30 day trial of the software.  Their UK reseller IT Energy, will first do an audit of current computer energy usage and then use this to make an ROI case.

Data Synergy – Powerman
A UK based company, They provide a free IT energy savings report for companies with more than 5,000 computers, and will refund the cost of an audit from the purchase price for smaller companies.  Appears less expensive than Surveyor or Nightwatchman.

Faronics – Powersave
Faronics is a US based company which is making headway into the UK Market.  Their Powersave offering supports both Macs and Pcs so should be good for the educational market where they also offer a discount.

Other Centralised Applications

For the brave and technically minded, the EPA offers a free tool downloadable from their site.  It enables centralised configuration of power management settings via Active Directory profiles not native to Windows 2000 and XP.  Free is the right price of course but it doesn’t provide centralised reporting.

Single User Applications 

These all help an individual user activate power settings.  Some then report those savings to the user, or centrally.    Most of them are windows only, though at least one works on the Mac.

US EPA - EZ-Wizard

Surveyor - Edison
Free tool from the makers of Surveyor.

HP – Power to Change
Slick website, which is almost worth the visit, reports the savings to a centralised database.

Northern Softworks – Lights Out (Mac)


We are keeping an eye on the field and are hoping to do some testing on the savings claims of individual products.  The current situation seems to be that there are a vast swathe of products out there, which all claim to do similar things, and you'll have to take advantage of the free trials and free downloads to find which one is right for you.  


No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are most welcome. We moderate them, but very loosely and mainly for profanity and to keep the "cheap meds" deals to ourselves.