treeAn article posted on the US site SoftwareAdvice  caught my eye today. What with world leaders meeting in New York to discuss climate change I thought it might be an opportune moment to look at the green credentials of web-based software and shamelessly re-work some of the numbers the original article highlighted.

Power Consumption

Let’s first look at power usage.

A typical multi-user, on-premise solution (ie, the old-fashioned stuff that comes in a CD in a box) would use:

1 x Server(7,000 KW/year) +
4 x High Spec Desktop PCs (400 KW/year each) =
A total of 8,600 KW per year.

A web-based solution like our online accounting software uses multiple servers. A Dell PowerEdge 2950 server, Rackspaces most popular server, uses 6,700 KW per year per server. So 13,400 in total.

As most of the data processing and number crunching takes place on the servers, much lower powered computers can be used by the software user. A Dell notebook perhaps using 120KW/year.

So if one customer replaces their on-premise software with our web based solution then their power consumption would be:

2 x Server (6,700KW/year  each) +
4 x Low-power Laptops (120KW/year each x 4) =
A total of 13,880 KW / year

How web-based software wins

OK, the green argument isn’t looking great for web-based software right now.

But web-based applications, or “SaaS – Software as a Service” solutions, can serve lots and lots of customers without the need for additional servers (unless you follow Sage’s Stupid-as-a-Service strategy).

So let’s scale the numbers up to 10,000 organisations. A tiny number considering there are somewhere between 2m and 4.5m small businesses in the UK.

For on-premise software it’s an easy calculation: 8,600 x 10,000 = 86,000,000 KW / Year
For web-based software you take the 4 laptops (120KW x 4 = 480KW) and multiply that by the 10,000 organisations to get 4,800,000KW / year and then add the servers (6,700KW x 2) to get a grand total of 4,813,400 KW per year

Average Reduction in CO2 Emissions per company

That’s a whopping saving of 81,186,600 KW per year from just 10,000 organisations moving from locally installed software to web-based software. Or around 8,000KW per year per organisation.

1KW hour of electricity produces an average of 0.43kg of CO2 emissions (varying dependent on how the electricity is produced). So 8,000KW saved equals 3,440KG less carbon emissions per year per company that moves to web-based solutions

The National Energy Foundation says that a bus produces 1kg of CO2 per 10 miles that it travels.

So by moving just one organisation to web-based software saves the equivalent of:

– 34,400 miles of bus journey
– or 13,760 miles in an Aston Martin DB9
– or a couple of return flights from London to New York
– or a lot of cow farts

Other factors

These calculations are very much “back of a fag packet” and only cover power consumption. What they don’t take into account are the many other factors.

No oil-based CDs to produce, no packaging or manuals to produce and ship,  less need to replace hardware (a very old computer can comfortably use web-based software),  more tele-commuting (so less travelling).

No stamps, envelopes or paper used or miles travelled by postmen to deliver invoices or statements as they’re sent by email. Even when you really *have* to send a hardcopy of an invoice, web-based postal services like ViaPost that integrate with KashFlow can seriously reduce the CO2 footprint.

I’m pretty sure I’ve just saved the world from global warming. But please don’t give me the Nobel Prize, it should go to Tim Berners-Lee (can you beleive he doesn’t have one yet???)

But seriously folks…

Even though my numbers may not be highly scientific, I still think there’s a very big green argument to be made in favour of moving towards the web-based model of delivering software.

It’d be interesting to hear thoughts from others that might have a better grasp on the numbers

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