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Posted by dom in audits

21 March 2008

Green hosting

Twelve months ago, almost to the day, I had great plans. My New Years resolution was to move house to a green hosting company. I fought hard to make it. Like so many others making resolutions, I fell by the wayside. I gave up by the Spring.

You see I had wanted the real deal. Not, ‘Go on plant a tree for your sins’. Or, ‘Feel better! We have some solar-topped offices and an employee buy-a-bike scheme’. I wanted to see innovation. I wanted energy consumption addressed at all levels. I wanted to see evidence: a real explanation of the insides and workings of the system. I wanted a list of improvements that could be made and an honest rendition of what technical processes were hard to address.

I am re-visiting the resolution. Can I make it this year? Well, the real deal is around the corner, or rather, across the waters – – a great start-up opening in Cork. Admittedly, Emmet and I have been keeping an eye on CIX’s blog, and we wait in expectation for someone like this (who’s really thinking about energy consumption and monetary debt) to offer hosting packages to people like me. Their set-up is for big boys to buy server space. What I like about this project is that its concept is Open Source at all levels – it’s not just addressing Open Source language hosting, like PHP and MySql. (Open Source issues are paramount in decisions of going digitally green. (Here’s a nice old reference to back this up: Open Source and the Obligation to Recycle.) Aside from the CIX project, I do agree with Treehugger, ‘things have got better’. There are now three categories that are moving towards the idea of green hosting.

‘One group buys Renewable Energy Certificates; these insure that the power they use is generated in an ecofriendly manner. This is typically wind or solar, but it could also be biogas or geothermal as well. Dreamhost is in this category. The second group actually generates their own power directly from renewable energy; AISO, for example, is in this category. They are 100 percent powered by solar that they generate themselves’ Treehugger, accessed 2007.

The third category existed last year, token gesture stuff. They have a solar roof, they ride bikes to work and some of them in this category are hinting at the importance of Open Source. This time last year, I had decided, after whittling it down from a list of fifteen potentials to five maybes, to go for one of three.

One of them was in the States, one was in Ireland and one was in England. I thought England seemed the most sensible. I mean we still have to think about virtual miles. Emmet had agreed, ‘going local would probably be the best decision if you’re going to disregard price – a similar decision to buying your organic food from the local greengrocer or Tesco’s maybe?’ However, I couldn’t disregard price. It was going to be like shopping at Marks & Spencer. And who says organic food is greener? Unorganic food could be down the road from me, whilst organic shipped miles. So, I went for the Ireland option. It was looking real good but as I said, I realised CIX was only selling to big clients. So, back to the States I went. Oh dear, it had closed down.

So, I am still here with the three I’ve had for sometime. Pair who I notice are used by Treehugger. They’re cheap. Namehog cos they’re just so damn nice to me and have lots of Cornish clients. They’ll always chat on the phone if I am stuck, which, as a non-programmer is really important to me (and there’s mac knowledge there). theirwork (an open mapping project that Emmet and I have been very slowly developing – it’s not externally launched yet) is on another hoster in Ireland Hosting365 because at the time they offered a good deal and they’re based in Ireland, as is Emmet. I should say, they’re all Linux based and none of them have let the side down.

This new Spring, I am going to start attempting to carry out a methodical comparison of say five hosters. I will address the social, environmental and economic as overarching categories: the triple bottom line. I do agree with Treehugger, you won’t know how good they are until you’ve actually tried them, and it’s best only to move on recommendation. However, I don’t agree with the idea that any of these in the above three categories will do (see Treehugger). It’s time there was some guidance out there and some standards set. Global Action Plan seem to have been slow to call this, though I am pleased they have. Read about this at Digital Lifestyles.

Notice that many organisations in this country that sit green continue to function on networked computers using closed systems software in most aspects of their work. One day I will finish and publish theirwork’s digital environmental audit framework. Not that it’ll be a massive and conclusive audit but it might just show the extent to which you have to think to even get some modicum of decent digitally greenness going. In the meantime, I continue to listen to Emmet’s wise responses to my questions. His last was this, which actually was in response to Simon’s post where my idea about Green Hosting was mentioned.

Interesting that he [Simon] should mention the move of data centers to cold countries, as this seems to be exactly what’s happening: go to Not quite as cold, but I think I’ve heard that Ireland’s low temperatures and high rainfall (water can be used in cooling systems) make it a good stop too. The infrastructure is a lot better too. As far as I know Google, Microsoft, Ebay and Amazon all have their main European data centers here.


Cork Internet Exchange
CIX Video
Reducing Information Technologies Ever-increasing Carbon Footprint

Digital Lifestyles
UK IT Usage Rivals Airlines In Carbon Emissions
How To Select a Broadband Provider

Global Action Plan

Emmet Connolly
Linutop: less is more
The environmental impact of thin client systems
Green Computing


How to Green Your Work
More Wind and Solar Powered Web Hosting

PS Recent news
O2 (who I belong to) just had a network discussion about this as I was just about to post! Members recommended the following:
Thinkhost search

(I think some of those come from my list, which I’ve left abandoned for so long, I am too ashamed to put it here. I will go to it soon…)