Power saving tips: How to set up your managed PCs to go green

Every business needs energy to run – to turn on the lights, to operate manufacturing machinery, to keep PCs running. The problem is that energy costs more than ever, and there is still plenty of concern about the sustainability of our fossil-fuel-dependent energy sources.

Whether your inspiration for running "greener" is to save money or to save the world, by reducing energy consumption you'll go some way towards both goals. You can get started with operating system tools you already have, although more advanced management tools are available that can help you conserve more energy.

You can begin by evaluating your technology purchases in terms of the power they consume and the heat they generate. When buying new equipment, look for energy-efficient power supplies and cool-running motherboards and components. High energy means high heat, which requires extra cooling for the room the equipment is in – which in turn requires more energy.

An old study of General Electric (conducted back in 2001) by the EPA's Energy Star program showed the effect of employing the power management functionality of Windows across 75,000 PCs. By setting monitors to shut down after 15 minutes and PCs to go into sleep mode after 30 minutes and full hibernation mode after 3 hours, the company saved $2.5 million (£1.5 million) per year in energy costs. The EPA estimated that this was enough energy to power 23,000 homes each year, and the reduction in carbon emissions associated with that energy was estimated at 20,000 tons – the equivalent of planting 5,600 trees.

Those managing many PCs will want to simplify power management with centralised administration software. You can find some useful info on this topic at www.energystar.gov; just search the site for "enterprise power management" for a list of software tools and how to use them. For example, you can set all your PCs to shut down at night in one fell swoop with centralised power management and start saving money immediately.

Software such as 1E's NightWatchman will allow you to shut down your PCs and wake them up for updates at night. One cool feature is NightWatchman's ability to generate detailed reports on current and potential power savings so you can quickly demonstrate the business case for tightening the reins on power management.

More generalised PC management solutions, which are typically used to deploy and manage operating systems, applications, and their updates, also boast power management functionality. And it's certainly easier to deal with added features in your existing software than to add a whole, separate product to your line-up. The LANDesk Management Suite, for example, manages many PC settings, including those related to power management. In particular, LANDesk Power Management allows administrators to define power management policies on a global, group, or computer level.

However you choose to manage power consumption, make sure that users still have the option to override settings, particularly if they are using laptops outside of the office. Configuring PCs to shut down at a certain time will be disruptive to late-night and travelling workers. Another important item: Make sure that the software will save any open files before shutting the systems down.