With 2022 well under way, a resolution for many organisations is to re-examine their impact on the environment. With so many factors to consider, one element to contemplate is how cloud services can contribute to sustainability.

Terms such as “carbon neutral” and “energy efficient” have been firmly cemented in the public lexicon for the past years and decades and many companies continue to strive to leverage every facet of their business operations to attain greater levels of sustainability.

The “green revolution” has been malaised with a history of false starts and shortcomings, however one would not be remit for anticipating that the current wave of support is, fortunately, here to stay. According to a 2021 Accenture report, 73% of executives surveyed view becoming a sustainable and responsible business as a top priority.

The environmental footprint of the digital world is ever evolving. There is the onus of responsibility on all companies to ensure that all possible steps are taken to reduce their carbon footprint within the cyber sphere. Many companies view cloud computing and storage as a potential solution to some of their “green” computing worries.

The expansion into cloud computing and storage has been well underway for the past number of years, however it was hugely accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies, often supported by their managed service providers, devised and implemented strategies for digital transformation to facilitate the evolving demand of a geographically dispersed workforce. Communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, supported by the public cloud platform Office 365, were pivotal to many organisation’s transformations. This enablement of remote working reduces the requirement of face-to-face meetings, which by itself can have a positive environmental impact through a reduction in vehicles on the road.

According to a recent Statista report, some 50% of corporate data worldwide is now stored in the cloud. This is a 20% increase since 2015. A Flexera study indicates that an overwhelming 99% of respondents utilize at least one public or private cloud in their business operations, with an average of four clouds per organization being used. Reliance on the public cloud has seen a huge acceleration in growth, almost doubling to 31% of organisations surveyed compared with 16% from the previous year. With this rise in popularity, the question that arises is just how environmentally friendly is the cloud?

An Accenture analysis hypothesizes that if companies world-wide incorporated the migration to the public cloud as part of their sustainability efforts, global CO2 emissions could be reduced by 59 million tons per year, the impact of which represent the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road. The Google Cloud platform has committed to operating its datacenters carbon-free by 2030. Last year, Google achieved the accolade of being the first company to achieve a zero lifetime net carbon footprint. This means that the company has eliminated all of their legacy operational carbon emissions through counteractive eco-friendly activities. Not ones to be outdone, Microsoft commits to moving its datacenters to a 100% renewable energy supply by 2025. They aim to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 to remove all carbon emitted by the company since its inception in 1975.

In the 2018 Microsoft Cloud Carbon Study, four factors were identified which account for the superiority of public cloud computing and storage vs their private on-premises counterparts in terms of carbon-neutral operations.

  1. Operational Efficiency

Large public clouds can leverage economies of scale which are not available to smaller public clouds or private clouds. Dynamic provisioning allows server capacity to be more accurately matched with actual demand, which minimizes waste and inefficiency. Multitenancy, the practice of balancing the usage fluctuations of thousands of companies connected to the cloud, allows for large public clouds to size equipment to meet the time-coincident demand of the whole user set, as opposed to the private cloud where equipment is sized to meet a single company’s peak load.

  1. IT Equipment Efficiency

Large public cloud platforms, such as Microsoft, see a significant portion of their operational budget spent on electricity to run their IT equipment, far more that the average corporate IT department. This means that these clouds providers are highly financially incentivized to optimize the efficiency of their IT operations to reduce overhead. Hardware is actively tailored to suit specific needs of the services, resulting in a higher ratio of input energy being converted to useful output. This level of specialization alone can be responsible for a reduction of electricity consumption of 10% or more.

  1. Datacenter Infrastructure Efficiency

Through leveraging advanced infrastructure technologies in hyperscale datacenters, large public cloud providers are able to achieve a far better power usage effectiveness (PUE) than typical enterprise datacenters. PUE is a measurement of the ratio of overall electricity consumption at the datacenter facility to the electricity delivered to the IT hardware.

  1. Renewable Energy

By moving the dispersed electricity demand from small enterprise datacenters to large, centralized public cloud hypercenters the potential for large-scale purchases of cost-effective green electricity is unlocked. This enable large-scale renewable energy projects to be brought onto the grid that were not previously viable.

If you have any queries about the range of Cloud Services we provide in Datapac please leave your details below for a free no-obligation call back from one of our cloud services experts.


Damien Mallon, Senior Systems Engineer, Datapac.

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