How going SaaS reduces your business’s carbon footprint

If you want to put going green at the forefront of the way your business works, it’s time to go serverless with SaaS (Software as a Service).

It’s not the only way to reduce your business’s carbon footprint. If you’re already pretty “on it” when it comes to doing things more sustainably, cloud computing might not have been first on your agenda.

Yet with the carbon benefits of SaaS only set to grow, now is a good time to get a little knowledge and then take the plunge with this part of your digital transformation.

How does cloud computing reduce your carbon footprint?

Cloud computing has the potential to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of businesses, each of which used to need its own servers and other energy-intensive equipment in every single office.

These days, SaaS providers centralise all of the hardware used to store business data in facilities called data centres. In theory, this minimises the carbon footprint required by the processes run through them.

It certainly will if most of the major data centre operators have anything to say about it:

  • Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 and wants to be carbon-free by 2030
  • Facebook is 75% powered by renewables and wants to be 100% by 2020
  • Apple is 100% powered by renewables and reduced its carbon footprint by 34% since 2015

As more and more businesses move to cloud computing, the more business models will improve, workflow clutter will be reduced, and data will be connected between silos, maximising the efficiency of the energy we use too.

Why the SaaS provider and data centre you use matters

So far, so good for your business – and the planet. Yet it’s important to understand that those data centres aren’t yet a guaranteed win in terms of your business’s carbon footprint.

That’s because not all data centres are created equal. For example, Google’s data centres tend to use much less energy than others. This means Google Cloud tends to be positive for your business’s carbon footprint.

Yet even Google operates on a “cloud region” principle. This means individual data centres draw power from their local grids, which have different levels of “grid carbon intensity” (a measure of how much carbon they emit in order to generate electricity).

Google balances the energy “mix” of individual grids by signing purchase agreements with various renewable energy suppliers to increase the levels in the grid, meaning individual data centres generate different carbon footprints.

Greenpeace’s Senior IT Analyst has said that data centres could be a big help with the transition to renewable energy. Yet he also highlighted the fact they need to be built in the right way – as Google seems to be leading the way on doing – if they’re to be the net positive for the planet we all need.

SaaS and the future of carbon footprint reduction

Today, if you want to reduce your business’s carbon footprint, going SaaS is a good thing to do.

But do pay attention to the cloud region you’re using. You can use Google’s Carbon Footprint tool to measure the grid carbon intensity of the specific grid your services draw from if you’re using Google Workspace.

If not, it’s worth making sure you’re using an “elastic” cloud computing service with autoscaling features that let it make the best use of times when grids have minimum carbon intensity.

As more of the market gets taken up by SaaS providers who are striving for – at minimum – carbon neutrality though, the more the energy used by cloud computing in general and data centres in particular will come from renewable sources.

The more that happens, the more using cloud computing is going to be a guaranteed way of reducing your business’s carbon footprint no matter which you use.

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