Staffordshire County Council leads the way by reducing PC power consumption

I recently read through an interesting post on about how Staffordshire County Council were saving up to £40,000 p/a by using software that they've written themselves to automatically switch their computers off at night.  I was very interested in this as I was aware that Windows Vista had some new capabilities around saving power and I wasn’t quite sure whether it was the same as what the people at Staffs CC have done or something different. Checking it with Mike Dixon, one of my colleagues, I’ve discovered that with Vista it’s possible to actually mandate this kind of behaviour and actually even improve on it.


Mike has helpfully provided the information below for me.


According to a Whitepaper published by PC Pro Magazine, 30% of people with Desktop PC’s leave them on all day every day and 28% of people leave them on over the weekend too.  The average desktop PC is “idle” for on average 30% of the working day too.


Windows Vista machines that are “Domain joined” (i.e. part of a business-style network where they can be controlled through set policies) can have a number of different plans defined for them that include automatically “sleeping” during periods of inactivity and “sleeping” or “hibernating” over nighttimes or weekends.  The IT department or someone else in the organisation decides on these plans and importantly which plans are assigned to which kinds of users.  Whilst the “sleeping” Windows Vista PC does consume a *little power, it does mean that as soon as I press a key to “wake it up”, the machine is fully back up and running within just a few seconds – including all my applications like email and browsers. Windows Vista often does not to be rebooted or totally switched off and on when any patches are applied to it by the IT Department.  Increasingly, patches can be applied by the IT department during any non-work time (like night time or weekends) and the machine is patched whilst still running.  If anything does require a reboot, this either happens automatically and the machine goes back to sleep or the patches are stored up ready to be applied whenever the next reboot occurs.


Clearly there are some huge savings to be made by using power effectively.  The key for me is to make this process totally invisible to the user and tightly controllable yet simple for the IT Department.  Windows Vista with Group Policy seems to satisfy both of these requirements.  The user is not even aware of the power management controlled by IT – the machine “sleeps” when it can be totally resumed to where it was left in less than a few seconds.  The money saving is great – however there is another payback that is equally, if not more worthy.  Annual Carbon Dioxide emissions from an “unmanaged” Windows XP machine is in the range of *184kg – 317kg depending on the hardware.  With a well managed Vista estate, this could be reduced to 63Kg – 81Kg on the same equipment – multiply this out by a modest 1,000 PC estate and the reduction of >235 Tonnes of CO2 per year!


Staffordshire’s lead on this must be applauded and hopefully when more people adopt Windows Vista, more control can be exercised over power usage, saving not only cost, but also reducing CO2 emissions into the bargain.


Posted by Ellen (with help from Mike!)

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