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Building greener networks and supporting sustainability

For most organisations sustainability is an increasingly important consideration and one that is being weaved into their business strategies. However, with existing infrastructure in place, it can be difficult to uncover how exactly is best to go about it. An organisations network infrastructure can be one area where taking a sustainable approach can contribute to greener business practises.

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Networking is an essential part of every organisation and provides a foundation for digital transformation. From local government to healthcare, financial services and policing – networks underpin vital communications and citizen services.

But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Any action towards shifting your technology to be more environmentally friendly should contain elements that align to a businesses’ unique requirement. The preparation at the beginning shouldn’t be rushed – take time to assess and analyse your current network before implementing change.

Cloud as an option

Cloud computing is claimed to be a cleaner alternative to those using local data centres. In fact, a study from Microsoft highlighted that their cloud is 93% more energy-efficient and 98% more carbon-efficient than an on-premise data centre. Furthermore, Google reported that despite a 550% increase in the number of cloud data centres between 2010 and 2018, the amount of energy consumed during these years grew only by around 6%.

With cloud repeatedly proving itself as a worthwhile alternative with real-life benefits, focus now turns to how we can ease the optimisation of our networks for hybrid and multicloud models. As businesses wind down their own hardware and begin utilising infrastructure run by hyperscalers, not only do the cost benefits become apparent but so do the benefits of less responsibilities regarding maintenance and upgrading costs. Cost savings can also be seen with flexible pricing models such as pay-as-you-go, which ensures that the business is only spending the computer power required, skipping waste and long contracts.

When energy is used, it offers more efficient usage as resources are shared. This sharing mentality spreads further, too, with the higher utilisation rate delivering the same level of work with fewer servers involved – lowering electricity usage. Even some data centres now run off renewable energy, while others are placed in regions which allow for natural cooling.

Thorough preparation to avoid duplication

If introducing your network to the world of cloud is on the cards, a clear management process must be in place to oversee and monitor the landscape, especially once data has migrated. Cloud usage should be visible, including when it spans across multiple environments. 

Take a step back – what is your network consisted of? Focus on potential duplications and shadow IT, as these can bring unnecessary double bills and hidden costs. From a security point of view, shadow IT can also pose a security risk with potential data breaches brought by unauthorised or unprotected applications.

While Software as a Service (SaaS) may be easy to provision, a lack of governance can introduce sprawls of applications across various teams. In order to clear up and bring visibility of network applications and traffic, management tools must be involved. This is where you can spot potential blocks in the road and work to remove them ahead of starting any cloud deployment.

Spotlight on energy consumption

Visibility extends to all corners of network cloud consumption and when it comes to sustainability, energy is a big part of this. Network energy consumption is best controlled with a granular approach, which can bring a series of small cost benefits – most of which are easy to receive.

For example, look at any existing inefficiencies with switches, routers and hubs. Look at the data and evaluate the idle times, wake states and regular periods of inactivity – these are the key areas in which energy can be saved, and so can finances and the impact on the environment. These are also elements within your control and can encourage others to re-evaluate their energy consumption too.

However, one must keep in mind the potential effect on response times and performance, so it’s important to strike the balance between saving energy and executing functions at the speed demanded by your business.

Champion remote and hybrid working

Flexible working is now the norm and expected by many, meaning that remote access is an essential component for businesses. Not only can this model increase motivation, productivity and widen the talent pool by removing geographical barriers but can bring significant environmental benefits too. Remote workers have no commute, reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. It has also been found that on average, those who work at home use less paper, plastics, and other disposables. Additionally, there is a shift in attitude regarding energy usage when someone is in their own home and will be less likely to leave lights on, for example.

If your business is choosing to enable remote network access, remember that it will often be your responsibility to provide the hardware that supports this for your users. Consider the impact of purchasing laptops and terminals, including maintenance and upgrades. Remote access also expands your security perimeter, so you should be aware of the risks that opening additional doors to your network can present. VPN-based solutions are generally secure enough for day-to-day operations and can be augmented with multi-factor authentication for additional protection.

Where to begin?

Like all tech transitions, the task can seem daunting, and any risks should be weighed up and considered. However, sustainability is an issue where the responsibilities fall upon every business to acknowledge and achieve, so the best way to start small and build up. Working in collaboration with a cloud-based network and security provider could help in achieving sustainability goals. Look together at your existing network, what works well, what could be improved and how a sustainable solution would slot into your existing goals and processes. Preparation is key to delivering the results required of your business and in the end, a good network should aid your end results.


Download our latest A Rough Guide to SASE ebook.

By way of an introduction, we have launched our Rough Guide to SASE ebook showcasing the different component parts of the framework and providing an explanation of the value and benefit they can deliver for your organisation.