How Environmentally Friendly is the Cloud?

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The cloud is becoming an increasingly popular way to store and process data, but many are wondering how environmentally friendly it really is. While it does have some advantages, like reducing the need for physical hardware and data centers, there are also concerns about the amount of energy it uses and the carbon emissions it produces.

Some studies suggest that the energy consumption of data centers and the cloud is on the rise, and that this energy consumption is producing a significant amount of carbon emissions. However, others argue that the cloud can actually be more environmentally friendly than traditional methods of data storage and processing, especially if it’s powered by renewable energy sources.

“At the end of the day, the internet is running on data centers, and from an operational perspective, the data centers are running on energy,” Maud Texier, Google’s head of clean energy and carbon development, tells ZDNET. “So, this is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions — when someone is using the cloud, is typing an email and creating something new.”

According to 2020 research, the computing output of data centers increased 550% between 2010 and 2018. However, energy consumption in data centers increased by only 6%. In 2018, data centers consumed approximately 1% of global electricity output. Cloud migration has been massive, with the percentage of corporate data in the cloud increasing from 30% in 2015 to 60% by 2022.

There are a few ways that companies and individuals can reduce the environmental impact of the cloud, such as choosing cloud providers that use renewable energy, optimizing data storage and processing to reduce energy usage, and using energy-efficient hardware. Additionally, there are efforts underway to create more sustainable data centers and improve the overall efficiency of the cloud. But mostly organizations aren’t moving to make their operations more sustainable, notes Miguel Angel Borrega, research director for Gartner’s infrastructure cloud strategies team.

The sources for this piece include an article in ZDNET.

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