Greenest Web Hosting on the Planet

My name is Trey Gardner and I am the CEO of GreenGeeks which I believe is the greenest web hosting company on the internet. In a few paragraphs I’ll go into the details of how eco-friendly we are compared to our competition but first I’d like to talk about why it is so important to choose a green, eco-friendly web hosting company.

A little history…

I have been in the web hosting business since 1999 and close to a decade ago (2005) I started reading reports on how the web hosting industry was becoming a major environmental polluter. It’s funny the looks I get from people who are not well versed in the data services industry when I tell them that the internet is not eco-friendly. Most people assume that the internet is inherently eco-friendly, distributing information and content without the use of paper (no loss to trees) and without the use of standard delivery methods like cars, planes etc.

This assumption that the internet is green unfortunately is exactly the opposite of what really happens. The reports I read in 2005 estimated that the internet would be as big of a polluter to the environment as the airline industry by the year 2020. The reason for this is the engine of the internet, servers.

The Problem

Servers, think of very large computers, are the backbone of the internet. These computers pass along trillions of bits of information every hour and there are estimates that there are over 50 million servers worldwide, and growing. The power to run these servers is immense.

A Stanford University repot estimated that over 10% of the electricity consumption in the United States in 2010 was due to the internet. This number is expected to grow within the US and globally and it is estimated that 10% of the world’s energy consumption will soon be spent to run the internet. The energy consumption of most of the world’s IT systems are not eco-friendly.

Most co-location facilities or server farms, pull their energy from the grid and the grid relies on energy production that is in large part from fossil fuels. There are many types of servers ranging from those whose electric use is moderate to some of the most powerful servers used by the likes of Amazon and Google and the amount of energy used by these servers is enormous. Just to keep these servers running it is estimated that each server uses up to 200 megawatts per year. It takes up to an additional 50 megawatts per year to keep these servers cool, distribution losses and to power the routers.

That’s an estimate of up to 250 megawatts per year per server and if you look at the average power consumption of a US home of approximately 11,000 kilowatts per year, that is an average of almost 23 households’ energy consumption being used by a single server in a year. Now multiply that with an estimate of 50 million servers worldwide and you start to get a scope of this growing problem.

Up until a few years ago very few people outside of server administrators, manufacturers and CFO’s realized the vast scope of how much energy was consumed by IT hardware. It was only within the last 5 years that people in the web hosting industry started to realize the environmental impact the internet creates and the challenges that we will face to change our course.

What are the Solutions?

There are no quick and easy solutions. Manufacturers have been looking for decades to reduce power consumption from the servers they create. Server farms have been inventing ingenious ways to reduce energy consumption such as using cool night air in a co-location facility in Utah to cool their servers rather than use traditional air conditioning units. The problem is that not every co-location facility is located in an area where the outside air is cool enough to keep the servers from overheating and the advancements in server capabilities have far outgrown the lowered energy consumption requirements that manufacturers have been striving for.

The need to stem the rising tide of energy consumption from the internet will continue to grow and hopefully it will lead to advanced low energy consumption servers and means to lower the energy consumption of data centers cooling systems, routers and server farms. In time I am hopeful and hesitantly confident we will create advancements to help make the IT industry vastly greener. In the meantime we will need to use what resources are available to counter the negative affects .

I have read about many ways that some of our competitors have gone green with their web hosting. Some utilize solar energy as a means to lower their carbon foot print during daytime hours, others plant trees and still others try to make their work environment and break rooms more energy efficient.

What Does GreenGeeks do?

At GreenGeeks we work with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation out of Portland, Oregon. They are an EPA recognized and approved Green Power Partner as is GreenGeeks. Through the Bonneville foundation GreenGeeks purchases energy powered by wind to be put back into the grid and we purchase 3 times the amount of energy we consume to be put back into the grid making GreenGeeks 300%. We do this for all of our servers and all of our employee work spaces and computers. No other company on the internet offers this level of eco-friendly offsets to our web hosting consumption making us the greenest web host around.

In addition to this we do a great job. We are a multiple award winning web hosting service provider with numerous awards and recognition. You can see what our clients say about us. We are also featured in articles on About.com and PCWorld and we are one of INC 5000’s fastest growing web hosting companies.

When I first started GreenGeeks I wanted to be us the greenest web hosting company around and I believe we were then and still are today. This saddens me a little bit as I would love to see some competitor with deep pockets push to become a more eco-friendly web host than GreenGeeks, unfortunately I have not seen that. I do, however, take pride in the fact that through my relationships with other web hosting company owners and people in the web hosting community we have started to bring awareness not only to those of us who work within the industry but to consumers as well. Many of my friends in the web hosting industry have taken steps to become an eco-friendly web host and this in turn has illuminated consumers about the need for there to be a green internet.

There is still much to do but so long as consumers’ demands for more eco-friendly web hosting continues to grow, the industry will respond and we will change the direction of our environmental footprint.

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