Green cloud is an approach to cloud computing that aims to reduce the environmental impact of IT services delivered over the internet, such as cloud storage. Ultimately, this approach aims to make green IT services beneficial to the environment and society, replacing resource-intensive business practices like on-premises data centres with physical servers.

Green cloud hosting offers an eco-friendly, efficient and scalable solution for businesses. With over half of all corporate data now stored in the cloud, it’s clear that the demand for services like cloud storage has never been higher. Improving the sustainability of services like cloud storage will therefore have a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

So how can ordinary cloud storage be turned into green cloud storage, and what are cloud providers doing to improve the sustainability of their cloud server hosting? Keep reading to discover more about green cloud storage and its future.

How can cloud storage improve your business’s sustainability?

Before we start discussing green cloud strategies, it’s important to note that green cloud is also used to refer to the inherent environmental benefits of cloud computing. Let’s take a look at how cloud storage in particular can improve your business’s eco-friendliness.

1. Remote working

One of the major environmental benefits of cloud storage is that it facilitates remote working. Thanks to file storage and sharing services like Google Drive, employees can share and edit files, synchronise devices, assign tasks and share calendars from anywhere, at any time. This means that employees can collaborate and work on tasks wherever they are, removing the need for offices and commuting.

Not only can businesses save money on rent and bills, but they can also reduce their environmental impact by not requiring employees to travel every day. It’s estimated that employees who work from home for four days a week can reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by around 10% – the primary pollutant caused by vehicle emissions.

2. Reduction in on-premises servers

Another key environmental benefit of cloud storage is reduced reliance on physical, on-premises servers. For small and medium-sized businesses, having on-site servers or data centres can be very costly and inefficient, as you’ll need a lot of power to run the equipment and cooling systems. Having all of this equipment in place for each business means increased resource usage, leading to greater greenhouse gas emissions.

By renting a cloud server from a cloud hosting provider, you can get rid of your on-site server and therefore reduce your business’s resource usage and emissions. Since the provider’s data centres are used to house many cloud servers for many businesses, their infrastructure is inherently more efficient.

3. Maximised resource utilisation in cloud provider data centres

But why are cloud servers more efficient than on-premises servers? On average, on-premises servers operate at up to 18% capacity, but cloud servers hosted in a hosting provider’s data centre can reach capacities of up to 40-70%.

This higher level of resource utilisation is due to the use of virtualisation technology in cloud servers. During the virtualisation process, a type of software called a hypervisor is used to split a physical server into multiple virtual machines (VMs). Each virtual machine has its own dedicated resources and can be rented out to a customer, which means that each server can then host multiple customers. This reduces the total number of servers needed and reduces the amount of energy required to run applications.

In addition, on-premises servers need to have greater storage and computing capacity than typically required to account for potential traffic spikes, which reduces the efficiency and utilisation rates of these servers. However, since cloud data centres can consolidate large amounts of equipment to handle traffic spikes, each server can operate at higher utilisation rates to boost efficiency.

One of the most common ways that efficiency is measured is through the metric ‘power usage effectiveness’ (PUE), which evaluates the amount of power used. According to the Uptime Institute, the average PUE for the data centre industry in 2022 was 1.55, which shows an improvement from 2019’s 1.67 PUE (lower numbers indicate improved efficiency). By improving efficiency, cloud providers can use fewer resources to provide services like cloud storage and therefore reduce the carbon footprint of companies hoping to move their data storage to a cloud-based solution.

How do cloud providers create green cloud storage?

Although cloud computing is inherently greener than traditional alternatives, cloud hosting companies are still looking for ways to maximise efficiency and reduce emissions. Since more and more companies are moving their data onto cloud servers, it’s imperative that cloud providers continue to implement green strategies.

In fact, cloud storage now consumes a huge amount of energy due to its growing popularity. According to a study by the European Commission, the energy consumption of data centres in the EU is expected to increase from 2.7% of the EU’s total electricity demand in 2018 to 3.2% by 2030.

It’s clear that hosting companies have a huge responsibility to improve the eco-friendliness of their practices due to the large amount of energy they consume. Major cloud providers like Google, Microsoft and Amazon have already taken steps to make their cloud services greener, such as by pledging to move to 100% renewable sources of energy. Here are some of the main ways that cloud providers can create eco-friendly cloud services like green cloud storage:

1. Renewable energy

Using renewable energy to power data centres will reduce their negative impact on the environment. Focusing on renewable sources will lessen cloud providers’ contribution to resource scarcity, and moving away from fossil fuels will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.

Energy sources like wind and solar power are particularly popular due to their reliability. To store the energy they collect, data centres will house large battery banks. This allows them to store excess energy for times when new energy cannot be generated (e.g. during the night or when there is little wind).

Most major cloud providers have already pledged to move to 100% renewable energy or carbon-neutral energy sources in the future, and they’re taking steps to use cleaner energy in the present. For example, Google Cloud has pledged to run their business on carbon-free energy at all times by 2030, and Google has already matched 100% of its energy consumption with renewable energy in 2017. Both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services aim to use 100% renewable energy in their data centres by 2025.

2. AI and machine learning

Another innovative green solution is to use AI and machine learning algorithms to optimise energy usage. Since data centres consume so much energy, increasing energy efficiency is a vital part of reducing their environmental impact.

One of the most resource-intensive processes in data centres is keeping the servers cool 24/7. This usually requires a huge amount of energy for powering large cooling systems, but Google has managed to reduce its data centre cooling bill by 40% using its DeepMind AI. Machine learning technologies can study current operations and identify ways to get the same performance out of a smaller amount of energy by eliminating inefficiencies.

3. Data centre location

Did you know that the location of a data centre can have a significant impact on its energy efficiency and carbon footprint? The closer a data centre is to a power facility, the more energy-efficient it will be. This is because energy is lost as it travels along lines, so reducing the distance it has to travel reduces energy wastage.

Plus, locating a data centre in a cold climate or even underwater could also reduce energy consumption by reducing the reliance on cooling systems. Data centres in cold climates will naturally need less cooling, and data centres on the ocean floor will have excess heat absorbed by the surrounding water. Almost half of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, so data transmitted to and from underwater data centres will also have less distance to travel.

Another strategy is to use the excess heat generated by data centres to heat nearby buildings. If this excess energy can’t be avoided, it’s best to put it to good use and help reduce energy consumption elsewhere (e.g. by reducing the demand for central heating in nearby buildings).

4. Data centre infrastructure

As mentioned earlier, server virtualisation is a key strategy for maximising resource utilisation and therefore reducing the total number of servers and storage devices needed. If cloud hosting providers want to lessen their environmental impact, they should decrease their energy consumption by investing in hardware and software that eliminates inefficiencies. Strategies such as frequency scaling can also improve the energy efficiency of data centre equipment.

Fasthosts green cloud hosting and green data centres

Looking for reliable, eco-friendly cloud hosting in the UK? We consistently invest in cutting-edge green technology to improve sustainability without compromising on server performance.

Our data centres are powered by 100% renewables. We use offshore wind and biofuel to generate our electricity, which are incredibly reliable sources of energy. This means we can implement green strategies while still offering the same high-quality services like cloud storage and web hosting.

Plus, our data centres are ISO 50001-certified, which highlights the efficiency of our energy management systems. Not only is our energy from renewable sources, but it’s also allocated in the most effective way possible to maximise efficiency and productivity.

Want to learn more about our green data centres and cloud hosting services? Talk to our sales team today to discover our green cloud hosting deals and discuss the best cloud services for your business.