Sustainability is not a new concept. Advocacy organizations and climate justice leaders have urged businesses—including healthcare organizations—to adopt more ‘green’ practices for decades. In the healthcare industry, technological innovations have helped increase efficiency and reduce waste across every facet of healthcare from medical record storage to healthcare delivery. However, some of these innovations have come with their own environmental price tags. A prime example—and the subject of this blog post—is data centers.
The United States is home to 25% of the world’s data centers, which are particularly essential fixtures for provider practices and health systems that can’t afford unanticipated downtime, loss of information, or security vulnerabilities. However, data centers account for 1.8% of the electricity used in the United States. Additionally, they exacerbate already stressed water sources because they often rely on watersheds for cooling. For instance, a mid-size data center uses an estimated 300,000 gallons of water daily—about as many as 1,000 U.S. households.
Though eliminating data centers is not an option, there are ways we can store information more responsibly.
Introducing: Green data centers
Green data centers are one excellent solution to reduce the environmental impact of healthcare data centers. Green data centers are designed and constructed specifically to enhance energy efficiency and limit negative impact using low-emission materials, e-waste recycling, alternative energy sources, and more.
Why go green?
Going green is better for the world—of course—but it is also more sustainable for your organization. Long-term, pivoting to a green data center will ensure you have reliable, secure data storage and it delivers these added benefits:
- Build your positive community reputation: Consumers in general, and patients specifically, increasingly expect businesses (including healthcare organizations) to use sustainable practices. When you demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability, you build trust with the community you serve.
- Save money on operating and maintenance costs: Though initial startup may require an investment, moving to a green data center will have a meaningful, long-term impact on your budget. Energy consumption is expensive, and outdated infrastructure is prone to issues. Utilizing renewable energy for cooling and overall data center operations, green data centers spend less on energy, which translates to cost-savings for their tenants (that’s you!). In addition, less energy use reduces equipment stress and related repair prices.
- Reduce risk of data loss and downtime: With superior systems and processes come improved reliability and security. In addition to being constructed using green practices, green data centers typically strategically place their data centers in locations with low adverse weather risk and a temperate climate. That equates to safer data for your practice.
Organizations across industries are catching on to these benefits, and demand for green data centers is projected to grow 14% annually through 2032.
How to go green
If you are not sure if your current hosting provider uses a green data center or if you are evaluating a new hosting provider, ask the following to determine whether they use green practices:
- Do you have a sustainability plan? (Here is an example from our data center provider)
- Do you use renewable energy sources to power your hardware?
- How does the geographical location of your data center take into account climate trends and available renewable power?
- What is your Power Usage Efficiency (PUE)? (A green data center will have a lower PUE than a non-green facility, which equates to cost savings for your practice.)
- What are you doing to lower the amount of electrical overhead your facility requires to support your IT load?
- Do you have any other sustainable practices beyond electrical efficiency?
- Do you have a water consumption reduction and water replenishment plan?
Where should I start?
Storing your data in an environmentally friendly manner is no longer an emerging trend; it is a current best practice that ensures the safety and sustainability of your data. If you seek a sustainable hosting partner, our team at PSM is eager to support your journey to sustainability. Contact us to learn more.