What is green hosting and how does it work?

What is green hosting and how does it work?

Almost everyone around the world has been, for the past few years, preoccupied with the environment. And we should all be, since we only have one planet to live on (colonies on the Moon or Mars do no exist yet).

Nowadays, the number 1 target for environmentalists are the big companies and industries that produce gigantic amounts of CO2 per year, such as car manufacturers, oil companies, factories, cars in general, etc. However, we shouldn’t forget that we all pollute. Even web hosts, that allow us to use internet, contribute to the pollution.

How does a web host pollute the planet?

A web host (or VPS host) is an online service provider that uses servers (very powerful computers) to make the websites of its clients available to everyone.

A computer produces heat and consumes electricity to function. The more powerful the computer is, the more electricity it will consume, and the more heat it will produce. For electronics, the same rule applies.

Web hosts have datacentres with thousands of servers that are all incredibly powerful computers. They therefore consume an astronomical amount of electricity to make those servers function, and consume even more to cool them down so they don’t overheat.

To make it simple: a datacentre is no doubt the most polluting thing when it comes to electronics. Not only do the servers run 24/7, they also need to be within a very specific temperature range to function at their optimal capacity. To achieve that, web hosts have sophisticated devices to cool down the servers, which make them consume even more electricity. It is a vicious circle that, depending on the hosts’ internal policy, rarely stops.

What is a green web host?

A green web host is an online service provider that uses renewable energy (for example, solar energy or energy coming from windmills) to power its servers. The goal of it all is of course to reduce the quantity of CO2 produced and therefore to less pollute the planet.

The public opinion used to be focused on the big polluters of the world (mainly industrials) and web hosts were not part of the equation. This has now changed.

Nowadays, Amazon is, with AWS, the leader when it comes to hosting, since they own 1/3 of the global market. If you are online, there is a good chance that the server hosting the website you’re on belongs to AWS. The latter consumes electricity that mainly comes from fossil energies (about 50%). However, more than 17% of the energy consumed by AWS’s datacentres comes from renewable sources, which is already a good start.

Amazon isn’t the only leader when it comes to cloud computing. Google and Microsoft are also big players and you can easily find information online to guide you if you want to choose a green web host for one of your projects.

How can a web host reduce its carbon footprint?

As mentioned above, a powerful computer needs electricity both to function and to cool down. Even if electronic components manufacturers (like Intel, AMD, Nvidia, etc.) make chips that perform better and consume less energy, web hosts tend to jump on the opportunity to buy more in order to have more processing power without consuming more energy. The issue with such reasoning is that while they use the same quantity of energy as before (and therefore don’t pollute more) their carbon footprint hasn’t changed at all either.

One of the solutions is to make web hosts use more renewable energy (and follow Amazon’s footsteps). The challenge for datacentres is the management of the heat generated by their thousands of servers (bearing in mind that it would be impossible to make the servers run 24/7 with no device to make them cool down).

What is the solution then? Well, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have each come up with their own.

  • Microsoft: Redmond’s giant is starting to adopt a new method to cool down its datacentres: putting the servers deep in the ocean. They’ve ran tests a few years ago and it turned out to work pretty well. Since the bottom of the ocean is always cold, servers don’t need a cooling down device (like AC). Microsoft therefore makes savings by consuming less energy, and it’s also beneficial for the planet.
  • Google: For years, Google has been installing its datacentres in cold countries. The goal is to help the local authorities by reducing its energy consumption to produce hot water. Google’s datacentres are cooled down by water, which is then sent to nearby towns so it can be used for heating, hot water, etc. It’s beneficial for the towns since they consume less energy to produce hot water for their inhabitants, and Google does it for free.
  • Facebook: Facebook has a similar approach to Google in the sense that it puts its datacentres in the Arctic Circle. Because it’s cold all year round over there, datacentres don’t need AC to cool down their servers. There is only a need for a ventilation device powerful enough to allow the exchange of temperature between the inside and the outside. By doing this, Facebook reduces its energy consumption, and their pollution at the same time.

It isn’t easy to reduce the energy consumption of big firms, and every new innovation is a new opportunity to take. To make the first step, web hosts only really need to think about getting their electricity from green sources.

It’s also worth remembering that everyone can reduce their energy consumption, and make small efforts to help the planet. To learn more about how you can do that, we recommend you check out our other article: 20 hacks to save energy.

Iridiä

Iridiä

Holder of a Publishing bachelor and a Creative Writing masters, Iridiä is an artist, a nerd, and a notorious cat-lover, who spends most of her time either writing or playing video games.

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