Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast: Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

In our 10th episode our very own CEO Simon Yeoman dives into the topic of corporate social responsibility including our own CSR commitments, practices and future plans.

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Episode transcript:

Intro (00:05):

Welcome to the Fasthosts ProActive Podcast. Spill the IT. Each episode, we'll sit down with some of the amazing ProActive team and chat through their experiences of the ups and downs of IT infrastructure management in small businesses. There's always plenty to chat about.

Graham (00:28):

Welcome back everybody. My name is Graham and I am your host for today, for what is unbelievably our 10th podcast here at Fasthosts ProActive. I can't believe we're already into episode 10. We are really privileged today to be joined by Simon. Simon Yeoman, who is the CEO of Fasthosts and Fasthosts ProActive. Simon, good morning.

Simon (00:50):

Good morning. Very pleased to be here.

Graham (00:51):

Yeah, thanks for joining us. It's good to have you here too. You are going to do a far better job of actually telling everybody a little bit about yourself and your background, and what you do here at Fasthosts and Fasthosts ProActive. I'll let you share. Take it away.

Simon (01:06):

I'm the CEO of Fasthosts and Fasthosts ProActive. Fasthosts ProActive is the brainchild of me and the rest of the senior team. I think it's a really important and exciting development for us, and we're really pleased to be moving the business in that direction. I've been with Fasthosts for longer than I probably would care to admit, but I think it's almost 15 years now. Done various guises in that time, and had a variety of roles. More recently, I've been CEO since 2018, I think. Steered through various challenges and opportunities. Like I said, Fasthosts ProActive is a very exciting development for us.

Graham (01:53):

Yeah, fantastic. We'll weave that in, we'll talk about that a little bit as we go through today. Today's podcast is entitled The Truth Behind Better Environmental and Sustainable Practises with Cloud Services. Simon, I know this is something that you are really passionate about, and that's why we've got you on today to do this one-to-one. How has your role here at ProActive... how have you seen that landscape change in relation since you started and where it is currently today, and possibly where is it going in the future?

Simon (02:29):

Okay. I think as a society we've changed, even in the short... longer space of time that I've been with Fasthosts... like I said, it's 15 years... there's been quite a lot of societal change in that period, and I think I'm very privileged to be running a business at this time. I think as a society, we're a lot more community but also focused on wider society. Running a business isn't so much around, "Okay, what's the bottom line, Simon? You know, what are your results in the last quarter, or the last annual results?" We are very conscious about other topics, and they might be community-based topics, what's our role in the local community?


We continue to be very committed to the Gloucester community and see a longer-term future, but for this particular subject, we are also very conscious of the wider impact that we have, not on just our society, but our environment in particular. I think it's something that all businesses should be a lot more conscious of. I'd like to think we're probably ahead of this game, but I do see in years to come that there'll be more regulation in this area, and we will all be asked to report on these types of topics. I think for you to have a meaningful impact in today's society, you need to be conscious of these types of topics.

Graham (03:55):

Yeah, absolutely. I think I see it, you see it, business in general, that they're paying so much more attention to how businesses are conducting themselves with that. We talk about greenwashing where people are just talking about it for talking about its sake, but actually demonstrating, and also as well when you are pitching for business, how much weighting, as in that score, do customers put on that, how you conduct yourselves as a business? Simon, why don't you just tell us a little bit about the culture here at Fasthosts. How's that weaving into the culture of the business in general, and all the great people you have working here?

Simon (04:34):

Like I said, it's an IT-based business and we are very conscious of our impact. We need to be conscious of our impact. We run the data centre, and I'm sure we'll come onto to the impact that data centre has.

Graham (04:47):


Simon (04:48):

That heightens your consciousness around the impact that you're having, on the environment in particular. For a long time now, these topics have been very important to us. We use the right tools to help collaboration over various distances, and that enables us to cut down on things like commuting and things like that. I think we are also very conscious, even in our offices, that we want to provide the right facilities, and we provide the right services to our employees, such as cycle to work, and whether that be traditional cycles or e-cycles, and things like that. I think we've recently launched an EV scheme for our staff as well, to give access to benefits, that they're beneficial to the employee but they're also a wider environmental and society benefit, and we're very keen that that's the right thing to do for the environment. We also think our employees think it's the right thing to do for the environment, and therefore it makes us become a better employer of choice as a result of that.

Graham (05:55):

Yeah, interesting. We've done a podcast about, obviously, the issues around resources and the lack of resources in the marketplace, and people that are obviously keeping everything on-prem and they're finding it really difficult to employ people. How important do you believe that when people are coming here to consider work, and making applications, do they make that as a big part of what they ask you, or the people in general here, about what your sustainability... or what your approach is to the environment?

Simon (06:21):

I think, when I work with our talent management, it's a question that gets asked more and more. If you take me out of the equation, I wouldn't like to admit whether I'm Gen Z or Gen X and Y, but increasingly as the workforce of today, they get to choose who they work for, more often than not, and that there's less gift in the employer, and it's really important that we are providing the environment and creating the type of employer that people want to work for and with.

Graham (06:58):

Yeah. It's interesting, isn't it? Where pay probably used to be, and benefits used to be the primary consideration, now you're probably finding people have a wider perspective of what they're considering.

Simon (07:08):

I think pay and benefits will always be a very important hygiene factor. But at the moment, particularly with the way that our employment market is, these employees are able to choose their employer, and we need to make sure that we're attractive to them. That's why we're conscious of these topics. But, there is a wider long-term future that we all need to look after our environment, and that might be the very local environment, it could be the wider global environment, and we've all got to look after that. It's a very precious thing.

Graham (07:43):

Of course it is.

Simon (07:44):

I've got children. My children are likely, probably, some point, maybe not yet, to have children at some point.

Graham (07:50):

It's going to happen.

Simon (07:53):

And we have a responsibility.

Graham (07:54):


Simon (07:55):

We're only temporary custodians of what we're looking after.

Graham (07:58):

Of course we are. Of course we are. Well, our friends at Greenpeace, and when they talk about it, so they've estimated... and they estimated this back in 2020... that by 2025 the technology centre could consume 20% of the world's total electricity, and that's an increase that was at the time 7%. Obviously, they attribute that to the expansion of the cloud and cloud computing, and obviously, with the further development now of AI, which is absolutely massive. What's your view on that, and how should IT infrastructures be looking to minimise this impact? Because, it's going to become very much of a hot topic.

Simon (08:38):

Yeah. There's various different aspects to this. We run a big data-centre environment and that has been our primary focus. That's where we have the biggest impact. For a long time now, we've made sure that all of our energy that we consume is 100% renewable. That's since before I've been in this role, the decisions that we've made. There were times 10 years ago when we had a selection of two to choose from of 100% renewable providers, and we made the conscious decision, we weren't as worried about the costs of our energy, we were more worried about the right type of energy.


So, it's something that we've always been conscious about, and increasingly so. We've invested heavily, Fasthosts and the wider group, in a data centre, and we are very conscious about that, from every... the fabric of a building, we've tried to make sure the fabric of the building is made out of sustainable-based materials. We are very conscious that that has to be a very energy-efficient data centre. We've put a solar panel farm on the roof, and that can generate almost 40% of the power. I think it's 525 kilowatts of power can be generated in that area.

Graham (09:59):

[inaudible 00:10:00].

Simon (10:00):

We've thought about every aspect of that build, to the point where even the backup generators, they use biofuel. We've resisted any type of diesel, and as a result of that, the way that we're generating power and the way that our backup systems... we've managed to reduce our emissions by over 90% as a result of those decisions.

Graham (10:26):

Wow. That's a big statistic.

Simon (10:26):

Yeah, it is. That's our key and our primary contribution. There's more to do. I've talked about the past. In future, I'd love to develop a way that all that heat that we generate, we've got somebody local to us that can repurpose that heat and use it in a factory nearby, or it can go and heat homes in West Midlands where our data centre is. We are very keen to look at those types of opportunities. We've dealt with the immediate issue right in front of us.

Graham (10:59):


Simon (10:59):

We've really cut down on our emissions, but there's other stuff that we could do more proactively-

Graham (11:03):

Yeah. Yeah.

Simon (11:03):

To choose the [inaudible 00:11:04] that's proactive, where we can not only just reduce what we're doing and reduce our impact, but also have a more positive impact, and use the heat that we generate in our data centre to power other people around us.

Graham (11:16):

Yeah, really interesting. I would imagine the technical specification, the architectural specification, took quite some time to get that right. Did it take longer, or did you have the perfect partner to work with when you were designing that?

Simon (11:30):

No, it took longer, and obviously we used a certain amount of third-party expertise, but also within our group we've got a lot of history and a lot of experience in this area. One of the uniquenesses about our data centre build is we've managed to get that energy efficiency and combine it with things like security. It's the most energy-efficient Tier 4 data centre in the UK as a result of that. The uniqueness of a design, it has cut costs, had a good environmental impact, and is Tier 4 secure compliant as well. That's a fairly unique design.

Graham (12:06):

That's a great stat.

Simon (12:07):


Graham (12:07):

That's a great thing to shout about.

Simon (12:09):

There are very few Tier 4 data centres in the UK.

Graham (12:11):


Simon (12:12):

There aren't any as energy efficient as ours.

Graham (12:14):

Fantastic. Well that's a great stat. Brings me onto my next subject. Obviously, throughout all the podcasts, we talk about... and when we are here, people talk about... on-prem or data centre and things, and people talk about hybrid working, with hybrid application where you're going to have some activity on-prem and obviously in data centres. You can't tell me that businesses in general are going to be as efficient running on-prem facilities as you've got. You've just made that big statement.

Simon (12:45):


Graham (12:45):

Is that going to be a real big issue for businesses moving forward? Because obviously, society, as you are the benchmark... Let's just say you are the benchmark and then they say, "Well, where's your data centre? How efficient is that? Well, it's not as efficient as what these people are doing [inaudible 00:13:00]?" Is that going to be more and more of an issue for companies and organisations?

Simon (13:03):

I think it's going to be. Yes, it is going to be more of an issue, and companies need to look at themselves but probably also look at their supply chain, when people are making decisions around whether they work with a particular supplier of cloud services, or maybe a particular hardware supplier, if they're using on-prem or if they use other hardware if they're in manufacturing. We need to really look after the environment. We can't just look at ourselves, we need to look at our supply chain and the third parties that we work with, to make sure that they have similar values to us and that they're thinking on a similar way. You create a snowball effect here.

Graham (13:42):

Of course.

Simon (13:42):

That we're all conscious of the decisions that we make, and we want to work with the people that have similar values to us.

Graham (13:48):

Yeah, interesting. Has that forged a closer relationship, from your perspective? Has that brought you closer to manufacturers of hardware, or are you more aware of what they're doing to actually reduce power consumption and how hardware is consuming power?

Simon (14:08):

What we try to do is make sure that it's part... We have a procurement team that work on these topics. Like I said, there's certain criteria that they need to meet, and they do meet. We've stumbled on an area where I think the IT industry in general need to become a lot better at it. I think not only are we very conscious around who we choose to provide our hardware, we're very conscious of the way that we dispose of it as well.

Graham (14:35):

[inaudible 00:14:37].

Simon (14:37):

We're worried about the security implications, but also the environmental implications and making sure that that is recycled. I think there is an opportunity here for our industry, around not only the way our hardware is manufactured, but also how efficient it is. That there are opportunities for some significant gains here. That the way that we run applications and the way that we manage hardware can be a lot more environmentally beneficial than the way that we currently do it. A server, it's smaller than it was.

Graham (15:12):


Simon (15:13):

But we haven't really, fundamentally, changed the design of a server, in recent years in any case. There are opportunities for improvement there.

Graham (15:22):

Are you going to see those servers rotated more now? So, i.e., if more efficient ones are coming on and it's the responsibility of the manufacturers, the hardware manufacturers, to say, "Look, we've cut... and these servers here are more 30% more efficient than the ones you've got," do you see that data centres, businesses like yours, are going to rotate hardware faster?

Simon (15:43):

Yeah, we will try to move to a more on-demand... we are working to our utilisation better, so that we don't have spare hardware. I think the other side of it, from an industry perspective, is that we need to make sure that we are working with applications that work in a more serverless environment, and therefore we're getting more microservices out of a single bit of hardware, as opposed to everybody having a dedicated slice of hardware or dedicated slice of iron. We need to make sure that our applications that we're all working with, as an environment, as a society, work in those types of environments. So that there's less iron or less tin being created.

Graham (16:34):

Yeah, sure.

Simon (16:34):

Also, we manage that on a more efficient basis, then.

Graham (16:37):

Yeah, really interesting. We spoke on a previous podcast [inaudible 00:16:41] about observability.

Simon (16:40):


Graham (16:41):

And how important that is, and looking at containerization and the efficiency of that, and usage. I guess that's going to be even more of a hot topic, based around all of this as well.

Simon (16:51):

Yeah, but even in this topic, once a week I will look at our energy consumption and how compliant we are for... how efficient is our data centre? Are we really... Let's hold our own feet to the fire on this.

Graham (17:05):

Yeah, yeah.

Simon (17:05):

If we're not as efficient as we say we are, let's do something about it.

Graham (17:09):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:17:11].

Simon (17:11):

We've managed our previous data centre for almost 20 years now, or in excess of 20 years. At various times, we've done things to make it as efficient as possible. We use a sort of... you can ask me what this abbreviation means and I'm going to struggle, but it's PUE, and we look at how energy efficient each of our data centre environments are. I can safely say that our new environment is a lot more efficient than our old environment, but it's something that we monitor on a regular basis. We can monitor it in real time. I can have a quick chat with our data centre manager, "Okay, what's our current PUE mark?" We are able to, at any point in time, understand how efficient we are.

Graham (17:54):

Yeah, interesting. There's reports saying out there that IT consumption will equate to more CO2 in the environment over time than the airline industry. Obviously, again, that's going to be a big magnification of what's going on. What's the forums? When are you as an industry all getting together? Do you all get together as an industry and debate just these topics?

Simon (18:17):

Yes, it's a big topic and some of that is brought on by regulation.

Graham (18:22):


Simon (18:22):

In the EU.

Graham (18:24):

Is that getting tougher?

Simon (18:26):

I don't know if it's getting tougher. I think regulators are probably still in catch-up mode, for whatever that expression.

Graham (18:33):


Simon (18:33):

Therefore as an industry, it's more we're managing this and we're leading this, and we're leading it because that's the way we think it should be, and that's what we think we should do. But also to a certain extent, our clients and our customers are demanding that of us as well. I do think that regulators are probably a little bit slower in this area and don't necessarily fully understand the technology. To be fair, it's a rapidly changing and advancing environment, and sometimes it's very difficult to keep up to speed with it.

Graham (19:04):

So one might say, if it doesn't exist already, to have a forum of leading providers who are almost like, I guess, a pressure group talking to the policymakers-

Simon (19:14):

[inaudible 00:19:15].

Graham (19:15):

To say, "Look, this is where we think this should be going." Because, you want to take the heat off of you. You don't want people thinking you're a bad industry in relation to the environment. So, obviously, leading with that, I would imagine, over time will be quite an important thing.

Simon (19:26):

Yeah, I'm sure it will. We work in different spaces. I touched on, we work in the EU a lot and there's a forum [inaudible 00:19:37], they'd look at environmental topics but also look at security topics, and a framework for making sure that our clients can go from one cloud environment to another cloud environment, and it's interoperability, so that end clients and end customers can have freedom of choice. That framework is developing, it's just probably slightly behind the technology at this stage.

Graham (20:02):

Yeah. Well, you look at the future state of this, don't you? We were talking when we... funny enough, about a subject before this podcast, if we all came back in 100 years or 150 years time, what would this look like? We've seen some crazy stuff where people have put data centres at the bottom of the ocean, or people might start putting them into the North Pole and things like that. What's the future state? Where's this all going to go, Simon? Where do you see it?

Simon (20:25):

I think there is a certain amount of benefit of locating your data centre in a cool environment. It's less costly, less environmental impact if your data center's in Finland compared to Spain or Southern Europe. That makes sense. But, I think really a lot of... we're already on that transition. Our company and lots of others are thinking about their data centre, they're thinking about the type of energy it consumes, and we're looking to make sure it's energy efficient. We're not there yet, but there's a clear pathway there.


I think what we need to do is understand how we can get the hardware to be more efficient, but also the applications on top of it, to make sure that they're not using too much processor power and things like that. There's some advancements that we need to do. We're not really looking at software providers yet, and understanding, how energy efficient is the software that you're running? There's probably some advancements that we need to make there. I think the other thing is, that I touched on, if we run a data centre, as we do, let's look for opportunities to reuse that heat.

Graham (21:32):


Simon (21:32):

That all those servers have generated, and how can we use that in the local community or put that to better use? It might be that we're able to heat community facilities, or housing estates-

Graham (21:44):

Schools. Yeah, absolutely.

Simon (21:45):

Schools or a factory.

Graham (21:46):


Simon (21:46):

We should look at those opportunities a bit harder.

Graham (21:48):

Fascinating subject. Well, Simon, it's been really good talking to you about this today. Obviously, from a Fasthosts perspective and Fasthosts ProActive perspective, you're certainly going in the right direction. It's been an absolutely privilege, thank you very much. Next time, we've got Terry Hurcombe joining us, who's the Head of Systems Engineering at Fasthosts ProActive, and he's going to talk about all the technologies you should consider when migrating to the cloud. Catch us next time. It's been a great session, Simon, thank you so much again.

Simon (22:20):

Thank you.

Graham (22:20):

We'll see you again very soon.

Simon (22:22):

Speak to you soon.

Graham (22:22):


Simon (22:22):


Outro (22:24):

Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcast, or visit proactive.fasthosts.co.uk for more info. See you next time.

Orlaith Palmer

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