Server Sustainability: Green Up Your Hosting

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Illustration of a computer powered by renewable energy

In this post, we share four tips to improve server sustainability through more efficient and renewable energy-powered website hosting.

Data hosting and data transfer can potentially comprise nearly 30% of your website’s digital emissions. With that in mind, increase efficiency and improve performance by considering the four tips below.

Four Green Hosting Tips

Below are four tips for decreasing the amount of power consumed by the server that hosts your website.

1. Use a Green Hosting Company

Web servers require power 24 hours a day but renewable energy sources cannot be counted on to provide such constant power. In order for a hosting company to be powered by 100% renewable energy, they must take ownership of their electrical infrastructure.

Some hosting companies invest in generating their own electricity using wind and solar. Other choose to offset their carbon output by purchasing certified renewable energy credits instead.

2. Use a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Shared Hosting Account

Both VPS and shared hosting accounts allow hosting companies to consolidate several of their customers onto one physical server. Less physical servers means less electricity consumed.

Chances are that you’re already using a shared hosting account. Here’s an approachable explanation of the differences between VPS and shared hosting.

3. Use a Content Delivery Network (But Only If It Will Benefit Your Demographic)

The more physical distance between your site visitors and your web server, the more electricity is consumed by the servers and network switches that route traffic between them. If your visitor is in Australia and your web host is in New York, your visitor’s requests traverse data centers across the entire globe.

The primary purpose of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is to shorten the length of requests by making a copy of your content and hosting it on servers that are closer to the visitors. With a CDN in place, your Australian visitor’s request only has to travel as far as the nearest CDN location, which may be within Australia. A secondary benefit of using a CDN is the elimination of the electricity used by the data centers that route that traffic. Companies like Akamai and services like Amazon CloudFront provide CDN services in data centers around the world.

However, a CDN isn’t appropriate for every web hosting situation. A CDN wouldn’t be appropriate for your website if your site handles less than 5,000 page views a day or if the majority of your site’s visitors originate from one geographic location.

4. Use Varnish

A portion of the electricity consumed when you request a web page comes from computer processing where your site’s files are stored. You can reduce your energy consumption by your web host if you can eliminate that processing. Enter Varnish. Varnish stores a copy of your web site and serves it to visitors from memory, bypassing the need to process every request.

Varnish may not be compatible with your existing web host. You’ll need to have root access to your web server. In addition, Varnish can be tricky to configure. Considering that Varnish can not only save electricity but also speed up your site by a factor of 300, you may find it in your best interest to find a host that supports it and take the time to learn to use it correctly. For more guidance on sustainable web design you can visit our cornerstone post.

Bonus Tip: Design a Data Disposal Strategy

Finally, consider implementing a data disposal strategy within your organization. Most organizations don’t use up to 90% of the data they collect. Why not devote resources to regularly culling unused our outdated data? A good data disposal strategy is part of a more overall sustainable data strategy.

Improving Data Center Performance and Server Sustainability

Most organizations can’t directly influence data center performance or server sustainability beyond settings and tools associated with their accounts. However, hopefully the suggestions outlined in this post will help you improve what’s within your control.

For more information on this topic, read this post on green web hosting.

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Mightybytes is a Chicago-based digital agency and Certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter or get in touch via our contact form.