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.

The impact of data centres on the environment is a hot topic. CEO Simon Yeoman sits down with us and discusses how Fasthosts ProActive delivered a state-of-the-art data centre focused on sustainability.

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Episode transcript:

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.

Charlotte (00:26):

Hi and welcome to the latest Fasthosts podcast episode where we are here with Simon, the CEO, and we're going to be talking about the sustainability of the new data centre that opened up in November last year because there's some really innovative principles that have been implemented at the data centre, which are really interesting. So, Simon, just to jump straight into it, I think obviously you're incredibly proud of the environmental aspect of the new data centre. So do you want to just talk us through what has been done differently and what is so innovative about it?

Simon (01:00):

Hi, Charlotte. Yep. I'll be very glad to. It's a topic very close to my heart, so I am very pleased to be able to talk about it. First of all, when we think about our business and the rationale for going in this direction, I think we are very conscious that we have a wider group of stakeholders and businesses have had to change, and rightly so over the years. If you think about most businesses in the 20th century, they probably fought first and foremost about their shareholders and maybe a bit about their people and a bit about their customers. But first and foremost, those were their sort of stakeholders that they managed and shareholder was king.


But as we develop as a society, we're a lot more conscious about our wider stakeholder management, and I think at Fasthosts for many years now we've been very conscious of our role in the wider community, whether that be where our office is based. Historically we've been based in Gloucester and we're very keen to be part of that community. And now we've built a data centre in Worcester and we're still very keen to make sure that we're part of that local community.


Also, for us, we're an online business and we're very conscious of being part of the online community, but also the wider community at large, which is why fundamentally the environmental and sustainable topics are so important to us. We recognise that it's very important that we get this right, not just for today, now, but for the future generations to come, and it is particularly important for us. We've been in business for 25 years now, and that's gone through various growth phases, but we've been conscious of this topic for some time.


Like I said, we've wanted to be part of the online community, and from an environmental point of view it's been probably almost 10 years that all of our data centres have been on 100% renewable energy where we're ahead of the time in comparison with most data centres. The sort of growth of a business meant that we have an opportunity to build a new data centre and we've invested heavily in a new data centre and we're sat in it now and it's a lovely facility-

Charlotte (03:15):

It's an amazing facility.

Simon (03:18):

... but that's also given us a fantastic opportunity to think about how we build that and think about our environmental impact and the wider impact on our community. And from the ground up in the design, but also the procurement, the steel for this building has carbon offset and it's carbon-neutral steel and things like that. We've thought about every single little bit of detail, also from a design perspective and in particular how we use our energy in this building is extremely efficient.


We've got a very modular design. We don't need to build and cool one great big data centre hall. We've got a modular room-based approach, which allows us to be more efficient and we're very conscious of managing our cooling and our power, and we aim to get this data centre to a sort of PUE, which is the way that we utilise power. And as close you can get it to one is better, and our aim is to get it to 1.25 and we're on the right track to get it there.

Charlotte (04:25):

So PUE, just for those who don't don't know, is power usage effectiveness, isn't it? And it's an interesting measurement, I think. So that is really quite innovative, isn't it? Having a score that low.

Simon (04:39):

I should point out, this data centre is already at that rate where, at the moment, we're migrating from our Gloucester data centre to our Worcester data centre, and when I combine them both, we're sort of getting closer to that, but I need to migrate the rest of our servers over in order to achieve that 1.25.

Charlotte (04:57):

Yes. In a previous episode we were talking about the migration of that, and so I think it's been quite a large undertaking from what I understand.

Simon (05:03):

It's a significant undertaking, but it allows us to take full advantage of the facility that we've built and then invested heavily in. I think it's almost 20 million pounds we've invested in this facility and it allows us to pass on those benefits to our customers, and we couldn't pass on the environmental benefits in our old data centres, so it's really important to us and we're really excited to be able to do it. And I touched on how sustainable the design and the materials are. Taking that to a step further, the roof of this data centre has got an industrial-sized solar farm on the top of it. It's got 1,400 solar panels on top and it makes a significant difference.


We are a data centre and although we consume 100% renewable power and green energy, we're also very conscious we've got a contribution to make, and so we have a solar farm on the roof and we plan to expand that and add more solar going forward. I think we're also very conscious of the way that we manage our energy and it's very important, like I said, that we get to that 1.25 and we manage our energy in a very efficient way. We also look at other areas like our emissions, and we use HVO, which is a sort of acronym for biofuel. So we've moved away from diesel generators to biofuel generators, and that enables us to cut our emissions by 90% plus.

Charlotte (06:37):

Oh, wow. Yeah, that's quite significant.

Simon (06:39):

So, it's a significant undertaking, and we've gone a step further. This facility has got EV charging points, bug hotels, and we've really thought about every precise detail. And if you bundle all those aspects together, we sort of got an energy and an environmental management system where we're working towards ISO standards and to make sure that we keep on the right track and we continue to move with the latest standards and stay ahead of the latest standards as well.

Charlotte (07:12):

And within all of that, how do you manage cooling? Because I know that's a big issue for data centres. I read this morning that Microsoft got into a bit of trouble in Iowa who are experiencing droughts at the moment through using a lot of water for cooling. So how have you tackled that?

Simon (07:27):

We've tackled it by trying to make it as efficient as possible, and that's where we've got some experts in that field and they've used a particular design, which means that we need less energy to cool. Thinking forward, we'd like to take that a step further and we're not there yet, but this is the way that we're thinking, sort of inputting cool energy is great. What we're doing with the hot energy that we're taking out, and we would love to be able to work with other people in this trade and the state or in the local area and allow us to heat their property or heat their factory and things like that. We're not there yet, but that is the way that we are looking, to not just look at the way that we're cooling our data centre, but getting into a circular type economy where others can use the heat that we generate as well.

Charlotte (08:14):

Yeah, I love that. And it speaks to an ecosystem, doesn't it? Which is, as you were saying, it's about having that responsibility to the wider community.

Simon (08:22):

Yep. And I think we do look at every aspect. So the cooling equipment, much like any other equipment, it becomes a requirement for us now. We have to have a look at the energy efficiency of that individual bit of hardware that we might be ordering, and not only the energy efficiency of that bit of hardware. We'll go the extra mile and have a look at the carbon footprint of how much carbon that bit of equipment has created in its creation. And our procurement team will go to that level of detail before we make those investment decisions. And if we have to wait a little bit longer for the right equipment, we will do.

Charlotte (08:59):

I was going to say, that's really difficult to do, isn't it, with hardware because of its entire lifecycle. And then it's like, what do you do when that hardware then gets retired and how do you ensure that that's sustainable as well? It's a very complex process, isn't it?

Simon (09:14):

Yeah, and this is a challenge for many businesses, and we could talk about some of the benefits for our customers, but when we look at ourselves, we've focused first and foremost on our operations and we're very proud of our operations. I've talked about the solar panel, I've talked about the biofuel, I've talked about how energy-efficient we are, but really to get into it, we also need to be looking at our value chain.


And so what we're doing is, we're looking at our highest value suppliers and we're asking them the same questions, and we're looking to put targets on them for their environmental impact and things like that, and use our buying power to have more of a positive amplification effect on the environment. And this is where our customers can benefit from all our hard work, and already encourage our customers to look at their value chain as well. And if you're choosing a data centre supplier or a supplier of any other service, ask them the question about what is their impact on the environment. We've all got a contribution to make, making this a more sustainable, longer-term project.

Charlotte (10:22):

Well, and that's a really good point because you offer a huge advantage too, because I know your core customers tend to be small to medium enterprises or companies, and it offers them a great route to sustainability without having to do all of that investment that you've done.

Simon (10:39):

Yeah. And it's no longer, and it hasn't for a long time, been very efficient for customers to have a few servers in a cupboard and them trying to cool it and trying to do this type of activity yourself. You cannot get the efficiencies and the scale that we've been able to achieve through the state-of-art design and the uniqueness of our design. We've touched on this in other previous podcast where we've got this Tier IV certification to demonstrate how available all of our services is.


We've got the latest design to make sure it's secure. And in this element, the environmental impact and the energy efficiency allows us to provide all of those services at affordable price. And that's fairly unique in the market, particularly when we're looking to provide that to our core smaller, medium-sized businesses. We're allowing our customers to access what I describe as enterprise-based solutions.

Charlotte (11:39):

Which is hugely advantageous for them, particularly if they get into bid scenarios, because obviously the government are trying to encourage SMEs to be more part of the bid process for their business, so it gives them a big tick in the box there.

Simon (11:52):

And I think, regardless, I think we've all got a responsibility-

Charlotte (11:55):

A hundred percent.

Simon (11:57):

... to be able to be looking at our value chain, and we look beyond that. We look at our value chain, but we also look, how do we dispose of our servers? How do we dispose of our hardware? And we do recycle all of our equipment in a sort of WEEE compliant manner, but it's something that we're very conscious of, that we develop the right relationships with the right partners so that even when we've got to the end of our usage of that product, that we're very conscious of the impact at the end of the life as well.

Charlotte (12:27):

Yeah, which is a big issue, isn't it? It's that landfill issue and reduce, reuse, recycle.

Simon (12:32):


Charlotte (12:33):

Great. Well, that's been really interesting. I think it's something that when you see, because it is a huge building that we're in, and when you see it from the side of the motorway, it doesn't look all that different to a lot of the other ones that you see. But there's a lot of stuff obviously going on in the background that really makes that more sustainable.

Simon (12:51):

Yeah. As I've said, it's a unique design and we're unique in the marketplace.

Charlotte (12:56):

Yeah. Exciting. Well, thank you, Simon.

Simon (12:58):

Thank you.

Charlotte (12:59):

That's been really good. I think people will find that interesting and useful, so thank you.

Simon (13:02):


Outro (13:04):

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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