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Green Web Host

Updated on October 15, 2009

WTF is a green web host?

The answer is very simple, a green web hosting company strives to have less of an impact on our environment.  Web hosts use a lot of computers and associated hardware.  All of this hardware requires electricity in order to operate.  Not only that, but they also produce a tremendous amount of heat which requires even more electricity to keep the server rooms cool.  Keep in mind that this goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Are you starting to get a sense of the amount of power needed to keep the web hosting company up and running with no downtime?  Ah yes, downtime.  I almost forgot about that.  In an effort to reduce failure, most web hosts use what is called "redundancy" in which they have an identical server, sometimes in a different location, in case the first server fails.  So it is not jut one web server using up all that electricity, there are usually two.  And if they are not using redundant servers, they have some other hardware in place to protect the data such as tape or hard drives.

Level of Green

Just like your own household, there are varying levels of what is considered "being green". In the web hosting industry, this applies as well. Here are some of the ways web hosts are going green:

  • 100% Off the grid. These web hosting companies claim to be the greenest of the bunch. The acquire 100% of their power from solar panels and wind farms. I have not heard of one using hydro as of yet. In order to get the most out of their electricity, they also use hardware that does not require as much power to operate. By using energy efficient hardware, the company requires less total electricity to stay in operation. A green web host that is not dependent on a major power company will more than likely have a green mindset throughout the entire organization.
  • Plant a tree programs. In an effort to offset their carbon footprint, some companies pledge to plant a tree on your behalf when you sign up for their web hosting service.  You need to make sure you sign up for a qualifying plan.  Some green web hosts will only plant a tree for you if you sign up for a "green plan" and will do nothing for any other plan. 
  • Purchasing RECs.  REC stands for renewable energy certificate.  I am not going to go into too much detail on them, wikipedia has all the info you need.  I used to think that these web hosting companies were not doing enough to be green, but I have since gained more of an understanding after doing some research.

In order to understand the dilemma these companies face, you have to keep in mind that companies are in business to make money. Without making money, they will go out of business. Now having said that, web hosting companies that have been in business for a long time, before it was "cool" to be green, will have to incur huge expenses to replace all of their hardware and move shop to a greener facility. It is much more feasible for a new company to start green from the ground up than to convert an existing one. So instead of doing this all at once, they can offset their carbon footprint with RECs.

You may think that this is not good enough for you, which is fine.  Just remember that by participating in these programs will benefit us all in the long run in developing new cleaner forms of energy.

Is your web host green?

If you would like to find out your web hosting companies' policies on being green, just ask them.  If they are actively trying to cut down on their carbon emissions, they will tell you.  They will probably have a whole section of their website dedicated to showing you how green they are.  If they do not have any information on their website, you can always pick up the phone and call them.  If you get the run around and you are concerned about our environment, you have the option as a customer to put some pressure on your web hosting company.  And if all else fails, you have the option to get a new web host. 

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