back to article America wastes gazillions with always-on PCs

Next time you leave the office, turn off your machine. According to a new report, the typical mid-sized American business wastes more than $165,000 a year in electricity costs thanks to PCs left on through the night. That’s more than $1.72bn in wasted funds across the country. Simply by turning off machines during night hours, …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Anonymous Coward

Under lock and key

The company I worked for in the UK used to keep all the desktops under lock and key underneath the desk. This meant if it needed a hard reset you had to call someone from support to come up with a key. Probably a policy designed to stop third party peripherials being connected and introducing virues or sucking away company data.

It's OK though - we survived - we found that one of the prongs on a power plug was able to fit in the lock and jimmy it open....

Obviously such a lock and key policy doesn't support the notion of turning on/off PCs overnight though.

0
0

It would probably be more environmentally sound to have the computers do something useful

It shouldn’t be about turning the computers off, it should be about putting that energy to a good use. Instead of turning them off, they should be folding genetic codes, or doing other useful tasks like participating in worldcommunitygrid.org. Heck considering how long it takes to encode my home movies from miniDV to MPEG 2 for DVDs, maybe they should let employees log in and use the grid of computers for personal use. It could even be sold as a benefit to employees. “You’ll get x number of hours of grid computing time during off hours as an employee of our company.”

In choosing how to use energy more wisely we should consider the energy used in the manufacture of the computer as well. If it is allowed to sit powered down, we are not getting any return on that energy, however, if we leave it powered up doing useful tasks, while we are expending more energy we are getting a better return on the energy we are expending as well as on the energy we already spent building the computer.

It would seem that from an environmental point of view this would be the best choice.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Backups and data retention

Backups are hard to run with workstations off, same with scripted updates and many other things that make IT life easier. I agree that it is kind of expensive but what is the cost of lost work, or a massive security vulnerability left un-patched.

0
0

Bad Time Management

I wonder how many people leave their computers on simply because they have to "punch in" and "punch out" with their computers. Given that Windows computers can take 2-3 minutes to boot up and start the first app it is certainly gives the worker the incentive not to turn their computer off.

0
0

That all?

1.72bn due to computers left on

??.??bn due to excessive military spending and unnecessary wars.

Please.

0
0

We're testing this at work

After reading about <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/a-flick-of-the-switch-that-will-help-save-the-planet/2006/12/15/1166162323019.html?page=fullpage%23contentSwap2">Sydney's power down</a> last spring, my work place is doing three power down nights this summer, to see how much energy and money they save.

No big deal with my Mac, as it's scheduled to shut down at 5:30 PM and start up at 7:00 AM on weekdays (I work 7:30-5:00); it's always ready for a login when I come in.

My WinXP box, though, is a pain. Have to make sure I get in about 5 minutes early, in case any patches are waiting to go. I work hell desk and have to be logged on, taking calls right at 7:30 AM. And we're not allowed to install any third party cron software on our Windows boxes. Oh well, maybe tech dev will come up with something. Would be cool.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Cost of switching off

Yes it costs money to switch the PC's off, but what is the cost of waiting for them to boot up? Say 2 minutes per PC on average for 240 days per year = 8 hours per year. I.e. about $200 per PC per year! Now do the math.

0
0

Turning them on and off shortens the life?

I've always heard that a) the amount of electricity used to boot the computer from cold is significant, and b) the amount of wear and tear from the process hurts the computers.

I have am responsible for about 100 computers, and I tell the users to leave them on so they can be backed up.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Physics

I can understand, in the warmer states why this is a waste - it costs money to keep the offices cool. But in winter and in, say Alaska, it makes no sense.

Energy is neither created or destroyed. Those PCs will be generating heat, meaning the company heating systems will be doing less work. At night, in freezing conditions, companies normally lower, not shut off completely the heating so these PCs are contributing to keeping the place warm. If we use the PCs to do computing tasks, they will generate a little more heat but hey, it's useful to keep the place warm. I agree, if the heating is normally turned off, some of the heat will be lost as no building is 100% efficient.

The same follows for the "standby" argument in homes.

I agree this argument doesn't work where no heating or cooling is required. Am I missing something ?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

State Government

I don't know why these people are so lazy. I look after a network in a building housing a little over 300 employees, and simply script the computers to shut down after 7pm if they've been unused for 15 minutes.

Employees are told to turn off PCs when they leave, but this just takes care of things if people forget.

So with the exception of a handful of always on servers and remote dial in computers there is no need for wasting power in this manner.

And yes, our employees are told to save energy by turning off their monitors too - no power consumption is even better than power saving modes, and just a few watts per desk adds up to considerable savings throughout the year.

Of course we won't get the acknowledgment for saving tax payer dollars by conserving power.

But it's not just the energy saving that matters, you also have an increased security risk if you're leaving unattended computers on overnight. Forget to lock out your computer too and its no wonder personal and private information finds its way out into the public domain. Cleaners anyone?

Odd really, you'd think private industry would be more sensitive to the size of their electricity bills than government, and a little bit more worried that their IP is left open and unlocked overnight - but there you go.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I just

put the thing to 'sleep'. That reduces power, turns off the monitor, and if 'awoken' it requires a password to proceed. If one isn't forthcoming, back to sleep it goes. In the morning it is 2 seconds to get going. I consider this the correct balance between on all the time or completely off.

0
0

Lights?

And how much does it cost to leave all the bloody lights on in the usual office building. During the "energy crisis", lots of offices turned off their lights. Now you can see entire buildings glowing at night. Even with florescent lights, that's still a lot of money. Then there are the billboards lit up at 2am. Haven't they ever heard of Dark Skys? Then there are all the street lights. No wonder the "developed" world glows on the night images.

0
0

IT and Brands have said to do this for YEARS!

Hey wait a damn minute before you little island buggers castigate (look that up Red Coats) "Americans" on this!! I've been in IT since 1989 and hard drive, computer makers and IT Managers have told people in business and consumers to "leave your computer on" for decades. (I never agreed with this and many of my IT friends have be vocal in our disagreement). I've read this in the UK and European IS Tech rags for year too! It "supposedly" led to longer HDD and computer life.

The Apple and Mac morons in Stupertino USA have BRAGGED for decades that Macs should be left on 24/7/365. In fact MacDroids boasted about leaving them running all the time - hence the bitchin when continuous Apple Flake-Updates caused "sleep" problems. Idiot tech talking heads on the radio like Apple whore Leo Laporte, still tell listeners to do this!

If you live in a Glass House UK, better not be throwin' stones or rock hard kidney pies.

0
0

I guess no other PC's in the World are left on?

Only PC's in the US are left on overnight? Riiiiiight. Extremists are so pathetic.

0
0

You missed the point.

Narg you've missed it. The whole point of this is so 'the little island buggers (<- absolutely love it!) can point out that their numbers came in under the Americans. But the fact of the matter is that 'experts' have been telling us to leave'em on for a long time now. Mostly in the name of saving the power supplies which without a doubt do fail quicker the more you cycle the power.

Now there's an interesting statistic I'm sure no one from 1E is investigating. What is the environmental impact of all those power supplies being thrown out?

And what about the backups and maintenance? Let's face it the only time we get any quality time with our PCs is at night. Other than we have to come in on the weekends. F that!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Turning them on and off shortens the life?

Before you ever notice it has shortened their lifes, you will have replaced them ten years ago. And the amount of power to boot them up is nothing compared to what the typical machine consumes when left running the whole night.

And re: physics. Your reasoning is, well, peculiar. The by-product heat generated by a running PC is a magnitude more expensive than that of a building's heating system.

0
0

Power generation

Someone told me the other day that many office blocks leave their lights on deliberately, under instruction from the power providers.

With the peak/offpeak power consumption differences I believe there are problems dealing with a sudden massive change in power demand (5:30pm, computers off, lights off, for huge skyscrapers?).

I'm not sure how true this is, but it makes a sort of perverted sense.

0
0
Silver badge

What about company policies ?

I've worked in a few large organizations, and they've all had internal policies of keeping the PC on for doing scheduled maintenance (backups and such) during the night.

I worked in one shop where I actually got in trouble for turning off the PC because it somehow borked the nightly save (what idiot designed THAT software ?) !

SO yeah, PCs are left on, but it's more for the convenience of the IT department - and by extension, that of the users who do not see an IT guy hanging around or initiating a backup manually right you need to finish that code.

I used to actively subscribe to the avoid-power-cycles theory until I got my first Athlon Thunderbird. When I noticed how much juice that baby could suck down in a week of 24/7 operation, I changed my mind and now I turn off the buggers when I know I won't be using them for more than 4 hours. Just realize that there are now 1KW PSUs on sale and I'm sure you'll agree that it is preferable to power those suckers (literal use) down.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

On or off

"My WinXP box, though, is a pain. Have to make sure I get in about 5 minutes early, in case any patches are waiting to go. I work hell desk and have to be logged on, taking calls right at 7:30 AM. And we're not allowed to install any third party cron software on our Windows boxes. Oh well, maybe tech dev will come up with something. Would be cool."

Here is a solution: You can set the bios to boot up the machine at a certain time of the day. You can also use the "at" service built into windows since the first nt kernel to issue commands. This would allow a system to boot up or shut down at any time of the day. Backups can be done after work and updates before work and still have the systems turned off for the night.

About the myth that powercycling is bad for a machine: Resets are bad, because the system can't turn off and back on but forced to restart. Turning a machine off and waiting a few minutes then turning them back is only bad if the manufacturer used a power cycle counter to make a part fail. (usually this is not the case) Personally I found that most problems with power supplies come from power surges and fan failiures. The first can be minimized by minimizing the on time and the second is only a real threat if there isn't anyone around when the fan fails, so it can't be detected by the sudden silence. In both cases it's better to turn a machine off and I mean completly, by shutting it down, then having it disconnected from the wall by a mechanical switch. If automatic startup is needed, then at least the atx sleep mode power have to be left on. (only uses a few watts of standy power) Leaving a machine on all the time, especially with some filesharing program that drives the cpu, the harddisk and the network all the time is the worst thing from an environmental standpoint and it also breaks the system earlier.

0
0

Time Management

So it takes 3 minutes to boot up your PC. How many people start work as soon as they hit their desks?

Not many I'd bet, you make a cup of tea/coffee, sort out paperwork etc. Use this time to boot your PC.

As for updates & back-ups. Why don't companies store documents on a central server, this mirror is then synchronised during log-out. Back-ups are then carried out on the server, not the PCs.

As for updates, ours run on the day after Patch Tuesday, collecting the update from the policy server and updating the PC during the working day. Yes it means we have to reboot when the update is run, but that can be done during brew time at 10am.

Finally, it's utter bullshit that shutting PCs down shortens their life, it used to be that case that old ISA cards would gradually work out of their slots due to heating & cooling, and the old AT power supplies may have occasionally died for the same reason, but modern components are much more reliable.

Look at it this way, do you keep your car engine running 24/7 so you don't have to waste time starting it up every morning?

0
0

SSH

My PC is a Linux machine - and I tend to log in remotely on a frequent basis. How could I log in from home, if I'd turned it off already! Also, it's not just 2 mins of bootup time, but another 5 mins to get applications ready, revert to what I was doing etc. And if anacron starts up, then for 15 minutes, the disk will thrash, just after bootup (running updatedb).

What would be nice is some way to make the machine run in much lower power mode - a bit like suspend-to-ram for a desktop pc, but with the ability to wake on remote login, or cron.

0
0

Machines can be switched on remotely

So, it's not really an issue in corporate environments, or even small networks. However it takes time and effort to set this up, and it co-ordinates with backups and suchlike (which is not necessarily broken, updates and backups should be done out of working hours)

0
0

Leave the d*mn PCs on!

I always encourage my clients to leave their PCs turned on, for several reasons.

1. Leaving them on means that they run at a more-or-less constant temperature, which is much better for component life. Many SOHO PCs are in outbuildings which are unheated during the night. This can lead to condensation and subsequent corrosion problems as the temperature drops.

2. Windows updates are scheduled by default to happen at 03:00, when the users aren't there to be interrupted or inconvenienced by them. Anti-virus updates and scheduled scans also run during the night.

3. I operate remote support via VPN link from my office. This often means remote accessing a PC out-of-hours.

0
0

Energy efficiency

Anon wrote "The by-product heat generated by a running PC is a magnitude more expensive than that of a building's heating system."

I don't believe that. The electricty to run the PC comes from a power station which is almost certainly more efficient at getting energy out of its fuel than any office gas/oil heating unit. Some of that power may well come from a renewable sources as well.

I suppose that any extra *you* pay in terms of your electricty bill will depend on how electricity is charged compared to gas/oil, including taxes, but in global economic terms heating the building with a PC should be cheaper than burning gas/oil in a local system (perhaps unless it's a CHP device).

0
0

Lets not forget the supermarkets...

I work in one of the big supermarkets. All of the tills are powered by yonks old NT based machines that are probably rather inefficient. These are left on all through the night as at 11pm they do their end of day stuff and upload reports of takings.

The self service tills are even worse. These are XP based and have nice bright monitors that aren't even dimmed down when not in use. These again have to do the end of day stuff and aren't even turned off when we close for Easter or Christmas.

The main reason why they aren't turned off is because these little buggers take around 20 minutes to boot back up again... You would have thought companies would have avoided these problems by now.

Another thing I find rather interesting is why companies always get the latest and greatest hardware and software where as the office workers are probably still just as efficient as they were 10 years ago running Windows 95 and Office 95. You can get hardware now that runs just as well as this did but uses only a few watts per hour, if companies used these instead their power usage would drop greatly.

0
0

Overnight backups not necessary

Its not necessary to back up office machines overnight if a sensible strategy is in place. This can also minimise the maintenance overheads.

The strategy is for all documents, etc to be kept on shared disk space on file servers or NAS. Do this and the PCs can be turned off at night without any problems. Backups are easy too, because only a few servers need to be backed up.

Problems with the PC's HDD? No problem at all - replace the disk, ghost a standard image onto it and its up and running. No company data is kept on the PC so nothing of value gets lost.

Personal data? Give each staff member a share on a server.

E-mail? You company does archive all e-mail as it crosses the main mail servers, doesn't it?

I've worked in offices that used this strategy. It worked well. A side benefit is that all documentation for a project or department can be kept together and accessible to everybody who needs it on a dedicated share. Before you ask, virtually everybody turned their PCs off overnight. Updates were picked up in the morning while people got their first coffee of the day, etc.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

It's not that simple

Leaving it on 24/7 will not necessarily ensure a longer life span. The life of anything electronic is very hard to predict, due to the many factors involved, including temperature, humidity and the characteristics of the electricity supply.

And as pointed out above, in economic terms a PC will be totally obsolete in two years, three years max although it will last longer.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Title

"Next time you leave the office, turn off your machine. According to a new report, the typical mid-sized American business wastes more than $165,000 a year in electricity costs thanks to PCs left on through the night"

Don't panic. I've worked out why it costs so much a year for the american people leaving the PC on.

Webster Freaky unknowingly highlited the problem when he said...

"The Apple and Mac morons in Stupertino USA have BRAGGED for decades that Macs should be left on 24/7/365."

It's the lenght of the american year. With there being 24 hours a day, 7days a week and 365 weeks a year. To compare to a normal (52 week) year divide the numbers by 7.01

0
0

Causes problems with IT maintenance over night ?

Nah, wake on lan.

Or have one night a week as maintenance night. If it's missed, the user looks at a locked screen in the morning waiting for updates to complete. And that's at a law firm. With partners. Who WILL get rid of the WHOLE IT department if they so much as lose a second of billing time while unimportant trivia like security patches are applied.

As for boot up time - use Hibernation.

Or better still have a power saving background task that hibernates after 2 hours of no activity (see, also save power Friday lunchtimes), except during those periods when you know your critical updates are going down.

C'Mon folks. Get with the 21st century.

N

0
0

We need smarter sysadmins

I've read comments about machines needing to be left on to save user's time in the morning, or to back up files or Windows updates.

My managed PCs come on a 8am, 15-30 minutes before use and get the AV updates. At the end of the day they stay on an hour for Windows updates or other servicing and then get shut down.

No work should be kept locally on a user's machine - that's why we have network drives.

0
0

Energy reduction cannot be ignored

It is interesting to see the debate on leaving PC's on 24/7 still going on. As has been previously pointed out, the hardware in modern PC's has changed significantly and there is no reason now to keep a PC on permanently.

The amount of extra draw on the power at boot up is marginal compared to a PC being left on, even when in sleep mode. The efficiencies of PC's heating a room compared to a specifically designed heater device is ridiculous.

In the corporate environment patching, updates and backups are mainly performed out of hours, which is why Wake-on-Lan use allows PC's to be woken up when these tasks need to be performed. Remember patching and critical updates are not a nightly event, and A/V updates can be scheduled during working hours, especially if they come from local sources.

There are applications (we supply 1 - I wont advertise here though) that fully manage this capability, including setting daytime power saving states, automatically shutting PC's down, booting them up, whether for updates or to be ready to go first thing in morning and have demonstrated significant cost savings. The cost of a PC running 24/7 can be anywhere from £34+ per year. Creating an efficient power management policy can bring this down to £10.

Whether a companies focus is on energy saving, reducing their carbon footprint or the cynical PR angle energy waste of such size cannot be ignored.

0
0

Greater savings can be made

Of course PCs should be turned off or hibernated over night. And anyone who thinks that the power they consume while booting is more than they would waste while powered on, or that the lifetime is reduced by one power-cycle per day, needs to do a reality check.

But there are greater savings to be made. Most desktop PCs seem to take of the order of 60 to 100 watts. If you spend your day playing the latest 3D games that's OK, but for the vast majority of business applications those machines are massively over-spec. Rather than a two-core 2 GHz Intel Throbotron, try a 1 GHz VIA C7-M. It will be more than adequate for office applications, doesn't need a fan, takes less desk space, costs less to buy, and takes about 25 watts max. That's a much greater saving.

So why do people insist on these power-hungry processors? Well I blame Intel's advertising budget and the "my PC is faster than your PC" factor.

0
0

Greater Savings...

'My e-wang is bigger than your e-wang' should definitely not apply to the office world. That nonsense is purely for fanboys.

I agree that most systems are over specced in the office and yeah I like that Via cm-7 (but mostly for my fantasy car stereo). Problem is Microsoft. While XP will probably get by on a 1 gig machine XP is on its way out and there's no way windows vista will run on it.

And I don't think anyone here is really advocating leaving the systems on at night as a 'general' policy. First we're just trying to relate how we got in this mess in the first place and secondly there are some admins out there who just can't turn'em off at night for one reason or another.

Then there's the 'green' folk who just want change overnight. Look at your boss people and ask yourself this. Will there EVER be any change let alone tonight?

Oh and all you people throwing around Wake on Lan and Hibernate et al. How bout a few links to let the uninitiated know what's up in more detail. This is the web for crying out loud.

Of course El Reg's 'absolutely no html' policy doesn't help much. It's a moderated forum for crying out loud guys. At least allow hyperlinks. I

0
0

RE: SSH

"What would be nice is some way to make the machine run in much lower power mode - a bit like suspend-to-ram for a desktop pc, but with the ability to wake on remote login, or cron."

You mean ACPI Power State 3? and Wake-On-LAN tech? That's available and I use it on daily basis...

0
0

RE: Lets not forget the supermarkets...

The problem is that most execs are looking to save money now, instead of in the long term, so they buy cheap hardware that is expensive to run and is utterly incapable of doing things within reasonable time, instead of spending a bit of cash on a decent ITX box that only sucks ~20W in total... The number of times I've seen IT guys open the self checkout tills 'for maintenance' with ugly mid-90s looking boxes screaming due to overuse!..

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Title

"Next time you leave the office, turn off your machine. According to a new report, the typical mid-sized American business wastes more than $165,000 a year in electricity costs thanks to PCs left on through the night"

Don't panic. I've worked out why it costs so much a year for the american people leaving the PC on.

Webster Freaky unknowingly highlited the problem when he said...

"The Apple and Mac morons in Stupertino USA have BRAGGED for decades that Macs should be left on 24/7/365."

It's the lenght of the american year. With there being 24 hours a day, 7days a week and 365 weeks a year. To compare to a normal (52 week) year divide the numbers by 7.01

0
0

Interesting thread - s'wot I do....

I leave mine on but turn the 2 monotors off because we run a 24 x 6-and-a-bit newspaper printing business. I'm on 24x7x365 remote support and need access to my PC cos its already got most of what I need running on it, but the office users turn their PCs off overnight and we use a NAS for file storage that gets full backup over night to one of 2 500GB removable HDDs - more space than tape, faster than tape, and SOOOO much CHEAPER!. RAS/VPN and RDP sessions do not a monitor need. Turn it off when you go home. Use Wake-on-LAN if you have to.

0
0

Of course I leave all the office PCs on at night!

It improves the BitTorrent throughput dunnit!!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

new biofuel?

Im trying to get my portable generator to run on a secret mix of chip fat and squirrel tears to reduce my carbon footprint . once i find the right quantities ill be rich :) but then ill probably be invaded and have my funds frozen. :(

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums