you can't control your power so get your users to do it for you - by Peter Judge
I’ve heard a lot from vendors about the importance of PC power management - and rightly so. Most organisations can save more energy by controlling the power used by their desktops than they can by re-designing their data centers.
Ask users, and they will say the most important IT contribution to saving power is to turn PCs off at night
But how do we make sure this happens? I’ve seen a lot of ever-more complex products which are designed to keep PCs running on the best and most efficient settings, and safely shut off at night.
There is a big push now to make sure that all PCs come with power management built in. There are management products that hook into the nascent power management tools, but these have traditionally only been viable for large companies with thousands of PCs and a heavy duty systems management ability.
So we’re now seeing the use of cloud-based technology to bring PC management to smaller and medium-sized companies. These servers - at least in principle - manage a PC fleet with a simple dashboard.
But I wonder if this may be a problem which simply can’t be solved by technology. Because tech solutions often ignore the most awkward fact of IT life. The user.
Simultaneously wily and stupid, the user will try anything to make their job easier, and in so doing will inadvertently - or sometimes deliberately - sabotage any IT strategy.
Set your PCs to go off at night, and staff working late will work round that and probably break the management system. Put the PCs to sleep, and users will find how to keep them awake - waiting for them to re-start might be taking chunks of their day.
But what if we turned this around? What if we harnessed the sheer awkwardness of users, and got them on our side? There’s a school of thought that says measures like power management will only succeed when we do that - because users, unlike system, have real intentions.
A recent survey found that half of users turn their PCs off at night - even if company policy says they shouldn’t. In fact, most of them thought they had more of a green conscience than their company, and would do this anyway, regardless.
It seems to me the way to make sure your PCs get turned off is to make it worth your users’ while.
If you have sophisticated management software, and you can be aware of the power consumption of your PCs, then make it your users’ responsibility to reduce that.
Give them information on how to reduce their power use, give them feedback on how well they are doing (a widget that tells their cumulative energy use this month.
And then, incentivise them. Make part of their bonus relate to their energy efficiency.
After all, saving energy saves the company money - you could return part of that saving to the individual user that makes it. You could extend this to take in the energy they use in other parts of the system - if they knew they were paying for the energy on some level, they might make less frivolous use of IT resources.
I’m sure there are plenty of arguments against this (it might hurt your bottom line if users started to put energy efficiency above productivity, for instance). But it’s worth a thought.