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Sustainable Business 2020

Why data centres are keen to be green

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David Watkins

Solutions Director, VIRTUS Data Centres

Data centres have a reputation for using lots of energy and generating huge amounts of heat. But many want to be as green as possible — not least because their customers demand it.

Let’s be honest: people don’t give much thought to the importance of data centres — if they think about them at all. Although, actually, that might be changing. Did you work from home during lockdown? Data centres helped you do that. Do you shop online, use Netflix, Microsoft Teams and social media? You wouldn’t be able to without data centres. They’re a crucial part of the digital economy.

The fact is that any ‘smart’ technology relays data, be it an energy meter, mobile phone or TV. Processing it requires a massive amount of computing capability — and that lives in a data centre.

“People say: ‘All my data is in the cloud’,” notes David Watkins, Solutions Director at VIRTUS, a company which owns, designs, builds and operates data centres. “But not many people ask: ‘Where is that?’ Well, if you want to see what the cloud looks like, come to one of our data centres.”

It’s true that, because of the job they do, data centres use a huge amount of power and generate a vast amount of heat. Yet more of them now have sustainability at the top of their agendas.

“We’re keen to be as sustainable and as efficient as possible,” says Watkins. “And now our customers are demanding it. The key thing they used to ask is: ‘Are you reliable and secure?’ Now they want to know we’re sustainable, too.”

It’s more affordable for data centres to be green

For example, the energy VIRTUS buys is certified from fully renewable sources. It uses efficient cooling systems, installs charging points for electric vehicles and typically locates close to public transport locations.

Plus, the buildings themselves have sustainability accreditation from BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). “A BREEAM audit looks at the whole lifecycle of a building,” says Watkins. “It asks where your building materials have been acquired and what energy saving features you have. Also, how are people getting to your site? It goes down to that granular level.”

Thanks to tax breaks, incentives and diminishing costs for renewable energy, it’s more affordable — and even cost-effective — for data centres to be a green and sustainable option for businesses. “A lot more data can be processed in an energy efficient way within a large computer base than on smaller servers in a company’s own building,” he says.

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