Can G Suite (Google Apps) help you be more green?

It’s becoming more well known that cloud computing can lower IT costs and labor while increasing productivity. Now there is further evidence showing that it is also incredibly energy efficient. Using case studies from G Suite (also known as Google Apps) clients to look at the migration process shows that the switch drastically reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions. On average, the research shows that companies can save an estimated 68-87% in energy usage for office computing and similar amounts of carbon emissions.

One case study that we can look at more closely is that of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), a government department who use G Suite with around 17,000 users. When they switched to G Suite, they were able to reduce the energy consumption of their servers by nearly 90% and their carbon emissions by 85%. The estimated savings in annual cost from the energy reduction is around $285,000, a 93% reduction.

Why is the cloud more energy efficient?

When a company migrates to Google Apps, shared resources in Google’s data centres do the “number-crunching” associated with these basic tasks. This lets companies run fewer servers, which can lead to potentially large energy and pollution savings. There are two main reasons that make cloud computing so much more efficient:

1. Reduces direct energy for servers by 70–90%

Google’s servers are more fully loaded and significantly more efficient. A company that hosts its own IT services must have redundancy to guard against failure and excess server capacity to handle spikes in demand. This can result in many times more servers than needed and it’s common for companies to have server utilizations of 10% or less amount of energy regardless of how busy they are, this results in a large waste of energy. Google is able to substantially increase utilization by aggregating demand across thousands of customers. In addition, Google data centers use customized, high-efficiency servers, power supplies, and software that need significantly less energy per unit of output than the servers deployed at most customer locations.

2. Reduces energy for server cooling by 70–90%

The direct energy consumption from servers is only part of the story. Almost every unit of energy that a server consumes ends up as heat in the building that contains it—causing air-conditioning systems to work harder than they otherwise would. In many situations (e.g., servers in cupboards or small rooms), each watt of direct power consumption necessitates 1.5 additional watts of cooling. Through significant R&D investments and innovative technologies, Google’s data centers need just 0.13 watts of cooling for each watt of direct power. Research suggests that a typical customer will see energy costs for server cooling decrease by 70–90%.

The savings from items 1 and 2 are impressive, although they don’t (quite) come for free. Using cloud-based services results in some additional energy consumption from the use of Google servers and an increase in traffic on the Internet. Analysis suggests a net increase of 2–3% in energy consumption for office computing migrating to the cloud.

This suggests that migrating to the cloud can produce estimated energy savings of 68–87% for typical companies. Replicating these savings across the entire economy would have a substantial impact. According to a recent study by the Carbon Disclosure Project, by migrating to cloud computing, large U.S. companies could achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and carbon reductions of 85.7 million metric tonnes by 2020—equivalent to the annual emissions of over 16.8 million passenger vehicles.

Although it is normally the improvement in communication and reduction in cost that is emphasised when discussing ‘the cloud’, there are clearly other benefits too. At a time when climate change is probably the greatest challenge facing the world, it’s useful to know that switching to cloud computing can be part of the solution when it comes to greater energy-efficiency.


If you’d like to learn more about how G Suite (Google Apps) and Cobry’s services could benefit your business, please get in touch