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back to article Leaving PCs on costing UK business millions

A third of business computers in the UK are left switched on overnight, costing British businesses more than £300m a year in extra electricity bills. In the US the situation is even worse - half of corporate computers are left on overnight. This is costing US firms some $2.8bn a year. Leaving machines on overnight and at …

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Flame

Gagh!

Have the calculated the cost of the time wasted in starting the bloody things up in the morning and shutting them down in the evening?

Thought not.

In the case of the POS on my desk, that'd be about twenty minutes a day.

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Flame

£300m across every UK business?

£17 per computer per year.. so.. if you have 10,000 computers (a lot) that's £170,000 a year..

I'd hazard a guess that for a company with tens of thousands of PCs, that would be a drop in the ocean of their annual turnover. Scaling it down to your average mid-size with 1000 PCs (to be generous) you're talking about £17,000 a year,, most places spend more than that on sandwiches for the board.

In summary.. who cares?

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IT Angle

Sun Ray

If they only have learned not to put a whole PC at every desk they could have saved billions. The thin client machines, especially the Sun Ray, are so energy effective we can turn off several CO2 emitting power plants if they were deployde in wide scale. It's a shame it has not been done earlier.

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Stop

Put into context

> Leaving machines on overnight and at weekends costs British businesses £17 a year for every PC.

As it takes me about 15 minutes to shut down and restart my work PC, including re-opening all the stuff I'm working on - Leaving the PC on pays off for the company in less than a week.

But I guess the environmental impact and shortage of generating capacity isn't shocking enough for companies with a vested interest?

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Flame

It might cost millions.....

Point taken.

But what we really want to do is reduce peak load on the power systems?

Anyway if we go nuclear, we'll need to have a base load on the system, and PC's can help with that. :)

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Standard policy.

It's also standard policy to load the corporate PCs to the gunwales with corporate cruftware (remote control, software cataloguing, whatever "sekkuritti" tool the arsehats bought this week, print manager, etc, etc). Couple that with the facts that they're also probably under-RAM'ed, based on some sclerotic CPU and that they get defragged, regcleaned and such only if they go titsup.

Finally add to the mix that "I put together a housekeeping routine that made our user's machines run more effectively" doesn't look anywhere near as good as "I rolled Corp ClogWare Admin Snooper 4.4 to 2000 desktops" on yer admin's CV and you have the real cause of the problem.

They take so sodding long to boot and login that turning 'em off overnight means you lose an hour of every employee's working day each morning.

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Stop

But is it really that much?

Its the same argument as with energy efficient lamp bulbs. My computer sits at home running, its sharing my music out round the house and its where we keep all our photos and so on. So its putting a small amount of heat out into the house. During the Autumn, Winter and spring, its pumping heat out into a house that has central heating running in it.

So the REAL saving (as with the lamp bulbs) is (Cost of Energy for device + Cost of Heating) - (new cost of running device + Cost of Heating + Cost of additional heating).

In my last job the coldest office in the morning was the one where the computers weren't there over night (laptops) and so we had to turn the heating up for the WHOLE building to get our office warm again.

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Other factors?

What they seem to have failed to factor in is the loss in productivity when the user comes into work, fires her Windows machine up and waits 5-10 minutes for it to boot and be useable.

Add in the likelihood that said user will probably go and make a cuppa you're looking at 15-20 minutes of lost productivity at the start of the day.

£17 a year doesn't sound so much now does it?

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Gates Horns

Windows is to blame...

If Windows had a decent standby/hibernate function that really worked, then I'm sure more people would use it - so long as it doesn't work, people won't use it.

Every time I've ever used it various services/servers/applications lose any clue about their state and various other issues that just force you to reboot every time. It's a lot easier to just keep the desktop running overnight knowing that everything will be in its right place (assuming no silly patch/update has rebooted you while you were away)...

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Switch it off

isn't that when most electrical equipement dies? At switch on or off time?

Every server or PC that I have had die on me, failed to come back to life following a power down. Not a few, not most, EVERY ONE.

Considering the cost of the reduced server / PC life against the small amount of electricity consumed by leaving it on, I have found savings in leaving the things on.

And don't scream about the 'wasted' power and how I am destroying the planet with the 'extra' green house gases used to power these machines. How about the GHG and the chemicals I have saved by NOT having to replace or repair these servers?

£17 a year extra cost to leave the power on, and double or triple the life of the machine, aginst a £250+ (per year of life) cost of replacing the same machine. I think that I'm onto a winner here.

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Wake-on-LAN

"It is standard policy in many large corporates that machines are left on so that software patches and virus updates can be remotely installed while the machines are not in use."

Have they not heard about WOL. Wake up computer, apply whatever, send it to sleep. Or make the updates part of shutdown procedure.

WOL doesn't work over wireless, but I guess not everyone in the enterprise went wireless, did they?

Thumbs down for incompetence.

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft Windows is possibly one of the root causes

I frequently hit "Shut Down" when I finish work only to come back the next morning to find all sort of error messages and Windows hasn't shut down. With startup taking around 8 minutes for my XP machine it's no wonder people leave their machines on overnight. Microsoft need to sort this out and get machines shutting down reliably and starting up faster. Only then will people switch them off.

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why, oh why

I currently work for a large multinational company. In our UK site I know that the machines all work the same way...when you turn them on all relevant patches and software updates required since last used are installed.

I think this was implemented on the desktop machines when they started having more and more laptop users. Makes sense to have the same software managment on both, although the virus scans can be a little annoying.

Unfortunately the rest of the IT support is put to shame by the charity I used to work for.

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Leaving machines on is cheap!

I am a software developer and generally have my IDE and a couple of virtual machines running on my work PC. Starting it up and shutting it down again every day would take at least 20 minutes. That's going to cost my company at least £10 a day in lost productivity.

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Stop

Only £17 per machine?

What do they think the lost productivity while waiting for the machines to boot each day is worth? Say it takes only 2 minutes to boot (unlikely given the configuration of most business machines) and there are 48 working weeks per year then that's 48x5x2/60 = 8 hours lost per year. Even at minimum wage that's £45.84 (and that ignores NI, paid holidays, office space etc). £17 looks like a bargain to me.

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Oh

And spending 5 minutes waiting for the stupid thing to boot and another minute for it to shut down is free, now? Not to mention the half hour we occasionally have to wait for antivirus etc. to update on boot instead of just doing it quietly in the dark of night. But those are *hidden costs* so they don't matter to Gartner.

It's the same kind of woolly thinking that's now forcing us to use so-called "energy saving" light bulbs in Scandinavia. More mercury in the environment and hardly any real effect at all. I mean, we have to heat our houses 9 months a year anyway and who cares where the heat comes from - and just exactly when is it we have to heat our houses? When it's dark and we turn on the lights anyway, that's when! Twits...

Policy based evidence making at its finest. Epic fail.

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Not the real cost

£17 a year per PC! My company has just implemented this shut-down policy and I'm sure they pay me an awful lot more than £17 a year to stare at a "Your computer is starting" screen each morning.

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Flame

Well talk about stating the obvious...

While the government, lobby groups and environmentalists conceive more and more expensive and ambitious "green" projects the cheapest, easiest and most obvious measures have been over-looked. Outlaw businesses from leaving their buildings lit up like Christmas trees as well leaving desktops on all night, I'd love to know what the CO2 figures are for the thousands of office blocks "idling" at night and at the weekend. If you want timely patches and AV updates get a WSUS and/or PatchLink server. AV updates still aren't big enough to justify leaving a machine on for 12 hours for!!

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Newsflash

Generally, corporate PCs are *backed up* overnight.

Dimwits.

That doesn't mean we can't do anything because you can try tinkering with wake on LAN etc., but for me at least it's always been flaky as hell.

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Happy

Shutter

http://www.den4b.com/projects.php

We run an app called "Shutter" (see link) which shuts down everything at 18:00 - Job done.

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Stop

Meanwhile, in the real world...

for anyone who has actually worked in IT, this will be a "been there, done that, got the T-Shirt" story,

When I worked for a large (1000+) company, one of the directors had this bright idea, to insist all PCs were turned off overnight.

The IT infrastructure was a classic NT4 SMS-driven rollout, where updates and patches were rolled out overnight.

First day of the new regime, most PCs took over an hour to boot, and some updates got corrupted and toasted a few PCs, taking them offline for a day, while a rebuild was done.

The initiative lasted one day.

And besides, didn't I read somewhere that the biggest cause of wear and tear on a PC is the on/off cycle, which hammers the PSU and HDD ?

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Anonymous Coward

Just done this myself

I have 6 computers. I have a life too, but I do a lot of computing-related and online work, so 6 computers it is.

Anyway, 4 of the 6 had no power switch on the rear, so I made up "kill switches" for them (to put in an easily accessible place - the power boards and power sockets being in rather inaccessible places). So now, they all get turned off properly when not in use.

It'll take 2 or 3 years to recoup the costs in saved electricity, but I feel better about it, and you can't put a price on that.

Gotta go - it's time to re-arrange my sock drawer.

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Flame

Understanding power

Most people have a very poor grasp of power consumption. They tend to know that boiling the kettle 'uses a lot of electricity' but do not equate this to a similar amount of energy used by leaving a 100W bulb on for an hour. I blame everyone for this, the education system, the media, the government.

The majority of the population see this as 'Science' and are turned off immediately. It is either too complicated before they have even tried or too dull. The main reason we have trouble getting students - particularly females - into science/engineering is that it is not sexy/groovy/fashionable.

The media have a very poor grasp of numbers and science. It's all 'carbon' - whatever happened to -dioxide and -monoxide??? Why cannot they say kWh instead of KW for energy used? Why do they have to emphasize 'billion', when put into perspective the relative quantity might be small?

I work with a load of engineers who should all understand power (watts) but they still leave PCs idle when they go home - probably through laziness. I put a simple power tester on our idle PCs and found they used around 30W sitting on their login screens - and let's face it - most offices are mostly unattended for 70% of the time (evenings/nights/weekends)

I suspect companies need help in this respect rather than the iron fist approach, but turning off unused items (lights, aircon) would make massive savings to energy used - forget the money and cost savings - that would be a bonus, what about the environment and fuel stocks?

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Stop

Windows AD

It's pretty trivial to script hibernation at a given time (subject to the machine being logged off/locked) in a windows AD environment. Why don't more people do it?

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Still don't get this...

"It is standard policy in many large corporates that machines are left on so that software patches and virus updates can be remotely installed while the machines are not in use."

It just seems like a soding lazy IT department. I have never worked in a company that dose this.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm...

£17 a year - versus the cost of employee time starting it up and reopening apps, getting back to where they were at the end of the previous day (even if you ignore any additional costs it creates with rolling out updates).

Doesn't sound like an economic case for turning them off to me?

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Paris Hilton

C Out the CO2 Brigade

I am tired of people randomly attaching the phrase 'tons of CO2' to everything! Soon the Mrs will declare a 50% slash in my weekly carnal allotment in a bid to cut down on my respiratory linked CO2 emissions ....

Paris, as she'd probably make offset my domestic offset.

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I would switch it of...

...but I want them to clean-up, de-frag, re-optimise the virtual images and do some other housekeeping after I am gone on a Friday. So I automated all that via Windows Scheduled Tasks. I have yet to find a way to issue a "Hibernate" command from such a thing.

The whole "power down if nothing has happened in 30 mins" is bullshit as something IS happening, but it is not user input.

At home I would like my PC to do some housekeeping (e.g. AV scans) during the night. This would mean bringing the PC out of stand-by and sending it back again, BUT also co-operating with other programs. i.e. do not send the PC back to stand-by if Media Center is recording.

There also does not seem to be anyway to tell Media Center to send the PC to stand-by after it is done (and not other program is running a housekeeping task of course). All you have is the shitty (and useless) "go to sleep after 30 mins" which is annoying if you are watching a movie!

At home I use "Stand-by" as I am not sure if the PC can be woken from "Hibernate" by a scheduled event. As I have said, I know of no clean way to send it back into "stand-by"/"hibernate" once the job is done.

So do not blame the users for the failure of the OS/applications to make such things easy. I have no idea if it is a similar situation with Linux.

You also have to consider the wear-and-tear on systems of coming up and down. How much of that £300 million/carbon-footprint be eaten into by failed drives etc?

I do, however, power off and unplug everything I can when it is not in use, even though my employer does not give two damns due to how we are metered.

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But how expensive is it to shut them down?

How much time is spent waiting for the machine to boot up, log in to various systems, and reopen all the files you had the previous day?

If it's only 20 minutes to get back to where you were it's still far more expensive than the cost of the electricity to keep the machine on overnight. Do you want to get into work 20 minutes earlier and leave 10 minutes later to keep the same productivity?

Lets not even get started with virus scans, loosing undo on all the files that you closed when you shut down, finding the correct place in the files you had open, etc...

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Boffin

Leaving the PCs on costs firms £300m a year in electricity

...but would the savings offset the lost productivity while waiting for the computers to boot up? Knowing the type of computers some firms have, they can take as long as 10 minutes to start.

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Paris Hilton

But....

The cost savings in man hours by not waiting for the blooming PC to boot each day presumably swamps the leccy bill.

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Gates Horns

only talking about this today

I used to turn my PC off every night, but the fact it takes 15 minutes to log in at the start of the day is more of a waste in productivety a therefore money.

Windows loves to copy your profile back and forth to the same PC you use every day... take it up with MS not businesses.

This is yet another survey / statement that misses the real issues involved.... no-one in IT asked me to leave my PC on for updates. They dont care when you get them, first thing in the morning is as good as during the night!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

News?

I was banging on about this years ago when I was a desktop monkey, trying to persuade users to simply turn off their machines when they left the office for the night. Simple laziness it was (can't be bothered to close down and save stuff)!

One c*nt developer even went on a two week holiday and left his computer on, logged in, and locked. Funny how it "accidentally" managed to do get powered down (the hard way!) after a few days.. ;-)

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£17 vs productivity cost

Putting aside the ecological argument, let's just see if the numbers make sense from a business point of view.

Let's presume that the time taken to boot-up to usefulness & shutdown each day is 2 minutes, and that your staff work at least 230 days per year, that's 7.6 hours of boot time per year, or a whole day of work, for just £17 a year.

It doesn't even make sense to pay more for machines that can do proper S3 sleep.

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DR

good idea.

we used to have a policy at a place I worked where all desktops were turned off overinght.

and if you wanted to connect from home at the weekend, and so needed your machine to be on we had an Intranet application that's send a magic packet to the machine so that it'd boot.

Wake on LAN.

then after they finished working from home they could just shut down again.

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Calculations

We do calculations on all of our linux boxes overnight, switching them off would cost us dearly.

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Beancounters to the rescue?

"chief exec of power management firm 1E, who funded the research." Ah, another 'independant' survey.

Seen this sort of thing done in the real world. Those who would look to increasing/justifying thier bonus do a blanket purge and never belive that there are loads of machines that look like 'ordinary' PCs sit there 24/7 happily monitoring systems, fault checking and analysing, raise alarms and send out messages to engineers etc. etc.

By the time the total cock-up has been sorted out there has been far more money spent on damage limitation and server rebuilds that there ever would have been on the power savings.

Those ancient machines the BOFH has left that are apparently doing nothing - not even a screen or keyboard plugged in - are actually running the company.

Thumbs up icon -- if nothing else it means loads of overtime.

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Flame

software installations practises

I blame Microsoft and other platforms designing a OS that needs to be rebooted when the majority of updates need adjusting.

I remember RISC OS back in the 1990s which used software vectors to add or remove software. This meant in the most part that you simply ran a file and it replaced the current one. No rebooting required.

Why can't they do this with Windows 7 and Linux in the 21st Century?

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More Common Purpose hogwash

Our big Xerox Phaser 7760s use 28p per 24 hour day in electricity for about 1000 prints which cost £8 in paper and god know houw much in consumables.

Our silver 20" iMacs cost 2.1p per day and are turned off at 9pm, so if they were left on all night it would be 2p more.

I think UK businesses have far more problems caused by the Government than by the piffling little bits of electricity which lets face it 8 months of the year are offset by equally piffling reductions in heating bills thanks to the processing power ending up as heat.

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Stop

Oh well. Who cares?

It's basically nothing... this may as well be the old 'leaving early to watch football match costs economy seven trillion pounds' crap the CBI come out with every few weeks to get their smug gits on BBC News. If it costs more than £17 in productivity turning the lump of crap off and on again then do it, otherwise leave it on. Simple.

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It may be green but...

...£17 per year is peanuts compared to the sitting around idle waiying for a PC to boot time.

Is there anyway I can leave mine on when not in use, working on a massively distributed 'how to get computers to boot faster' project?

Mine's the one left on the peg seemingly not used.

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WOL

Has nobody heard of Wake on LAN? I have a script which shuts down all my company's PCs at a certain time late in the afternoon.

They're given a WOL command next morning about ten minutes before the users come in.

Their profiles are small enough to have them logged on in under 20 seconds.

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Stop

Simply not true

The cost to British business is a net £0.

Or are we saying that none of the British Electricity Suppliers are British Businesses?

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Flame

@Paul

[of overnight patch depoyment etc]

"It just seems like a soding lazy IT department. "

Er - you try manually deploying a patch to 10,000 PCs, between 8pm and 6am.

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Re: I would switch it off.......

"....I know of no clean way to send it back into "stand-by"/"hibernate" once the job is done....."

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/555569/en-us

That seems to be the answer you've been searching for.

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Joke

Emissions?

<<the IT and telecom industry generates 2 per cent of world carbon emissions>>

If it were methane emissions, I'd recommend El Reg. cancel the BOFH's membership to Mahatma Kote's fitness^H^H^H^H^H^H^H curry 'clinic'.

That'll save the planet. NOT. He'll find a way around it. (Self-administered death by gas poisoning in a tape safe, indeed...)

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£17 is not a lot

compared to the loss of time while employees to wait for their PCs to boot in the morning.

5-10 mins (on a good day) everyday for a year is going to cost the company much more.

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Boffin

Bad Science

Firstly - we are talking about off-peak load here, so if every single PC were turned off at night, the National Grid would still have just as many conventional power stations running, so not one gram of CO2 would be saved.

Secondly: price. Electricity has almost no usage component in the price - it is all running costs that don't change, so if all those PC's got turned off, the utilities would need to put up the price per unit to cover their costs, so no net reduction in costs, averaged across the nation.

Thirdly, as covered by many above, the lost productivity that can be covered by £17 is not very much: an hour or two per year is barely enough time per day to press the button.

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And if you don't turn 'em off...

...at least run Boinc on 'em!

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Anonymous Coward

Surely though

There are a number of different angles with the whole leaving computers on aspect.

There is the financial costs of doing so, which will also need to take into consideration things like loss of productivity on startup as many have already mentioned.

Alternatively there is the environmental cost which will need to take into consideration things like direct energy use vs wear and tear of starting / stopping hardware. I would postulate that were companies etc. really bothered about the environmental impact then they would do much more to encourage working from home.

And there is the convenience thing. I get paid the same whether I am working, watching my computer boot up or making a cuppa whilst my computer boots, however I do get frustrated at having to wait. After all I am there to work and watching a PC welcome me to Windows for 10 minutes loses it's sparkle after a few times.

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