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The energy cost of inefficient IT

Old equipment and devices left on all the time could be costing you a fortune. Here’s how much you’re paying – and how you can save money.

When we think of waste in businesses, our minds usually turn to the physical. From users printing pages they don’t read to the mountain of plastic cups by the water cooler, these are all tangible expenses. But what about the costs you can’t see, from wasted power to replicated work? How can that be cut down?

Power-saving mode

While many systems can be updated with energy savings in mind, IT departments can make huge cost savings just by changing the habits of staff in the business or applying centralised power-management techniques.

For instance, all computer operating systems have power-saving modes to cut energy usage when not in use. These are typically sleep, where the OS is stored in RAM ready to respond, and a deeper hibernation mode that puts the computer into full standby.

One organisation that has seen huge gains from taking a more energy-efficient approach to IT is GE, which has managed to save more than $2.5m (£2m) a year by activating PC power-management features. The settings include turning off monitors after 15 minutes of inactivity; putting systems into standby mode after two hours; and going into hibernation after three hours.

GE has now activated power-management settings on around 75,000 Windows PCs, giving the firm an annual saving of between $25 and $75 per machine.

IT manager Albert Werner explains how easy it was to get sign-off for the project across the business: “The pitch was simple. Power management would save money, not adversely affect day-to-day operations, and could be implemented quickly and easily. A no-brainer.”

Local servers will have similar energy-saving settings and you can work out when you need them to be at full power and when you can have them shut down. If you know your office is empty at certain times, why not also have the wireless access points shut down to save energy?


Printers can draw a huge amount of power when in use, but even in standby mode some printers are using a lot of electricity. The worst offenders can cost you 0.12p per hour just to do nothing. That might not sound like a lot, but a printer like this in sleep mode would cost £10.50 a year to do nothing. Turning off printers when they’re not in use is one tactic, but it’s easy to forget to do this, so think about energy costs when you replace a printer.

One solution worth considering is a low-energy standby mode, which features on some new printers and draws close to no power. It does this by charging a capacitor when the printer is being used, so the printer can act as though it’s unplugged when in standby mode.


Computers are some of the biggest wasters of power, using a lot of electricity when they're turned on. On average, a business desktop PC will cost 2p per hour to run when it's powered on – or 16p per eight-hour day, 80p per working week and £41.76 a year (based on 261 working days in the UK in 2016).

Take a company running 500 desktops and that’s a yearly cost of almost £21,000 a year – and that doesn’t include the additional cost of keeping the desktop in sleep mode for out-of-office hours. Surely it’s time to put the software updates midweek, and switch off when the lights go out.

Laptop versus desktop

A laptop uses a lot less power than most desktops, and that saving goes directly into your company’s pocket. An average laptop costs 1p per hour to run, which works out to around £21 per year. With a company with 500 computers, laptops would cost £10,500 – half the price of desktops.

Laptops not in use can also be fully turned off, allowing their batteries to drain until they’re needed again, for a bigger cost saving.

As well as offering businesses potential cost savings, taking steps to reduce power usage helps support initiatives to go green and become more eco-friendly. These factors are increasingly playing a part in customers choosing whom to do business with, and the best employees choosing where to work. As a result, taking steps towards more efficient IT can affect your bottom line twice over. Clearly it’s time more IT departments switched on to switching off.

Learn how small businesses from various sectors are employing technology to their advantage by visiting Brother’s business solutions homepage.

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