When discussing data management centers, energy efficiency is unavoidable. All management personnel wants to be financially responsible, but it’s of particular concern when your industry is so dependent on energy, with all of its rising costs. In fact, the incentives offered to data centers who can keep those energy costs down have become one of the biggest drivers compelling us to reduce usage. Here are three ways we can make that happen.

1. Leveraging hot and cold.

As we know, the airflow in a lot of devices, including servers, goes from front to back. That means the front will be cooler than the rear. We can use this to our advantage by configuring hot and cold aisles. This is now a standard in data center management.

To do it, you have the cool front end of a row of servers facing another front-facing row of servers, with ventilation in between. The next aisle will contain two rows of the backs of servers, which creates the hot aisle. The aisles will alternate just that way – hot, cold, hot, cold. Partitioning airflow this way means the air doesn’t mix, and therefore the ambient temperature isn’t as difficult to control, which translates to lower energy costs.

2. Update the lighting.

If you want to cut utility costs, it helps to look not to the right or left, but up. Studies conducted at government data centers revealed that more energy efficient lighting upgrades can pay for themselves. In the first place, it’s completely acceptable to cut off the lighting at certain times, as automated processes do not require light usage.

Where we put the lighting matters as well. If your lights are above the racks, this contributes to the temperature of the server. But if the bulbs are in the center, above the aisle, it won’t raise the temperature of the equipment as much. And of course, energy efficient LED bulbs are recommended.

3. Know your servers.

The truth is, not every server needs to be on at all times. Idle servers, also known as zombie servers, may make up a quarter of the servers at your center, and that is a huge problem in relation to energy costs. Some of these idle servers could be used as half as much energy as the servers that are actually doing something.

But this is understandably a little nerve-racking for some managers. What if you cut a necessary server? That’s where stricter record keeping, training, and auditing comes in. If you understand what is on that server and what is at stake if you cut power to it, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions concerning what can stay on and what’s a drain to your resources.

What do you notice about the three practices above? All of them are relatively cheap to implement. In the case of hot-cold, it will simply take manpower to arrange. With respect to lighting, as discussed, the upgrade pays for itself within a year. And zombie servers can be dealt with in a very cost-effective manner if we merely become more vigilant about what’s contained within our center.