Web hosts and sustainability

Strato, a German web-hosting company with operations in six countries, including the UK, invited me along to hear its ‘carbon neutral’ story. “Yeah, right”, I thought. Just another company jumping on …

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24th September 2007 at 9:10 am

Strato, a German web-hosting company with operations in six countries, including the UK, invited me along to hear its ‘carbon neutral’ story. “Yeah, right”, I thought. Just another company jumping on the greenwash bandwagon. I put the cynic’s hat on and off I went.

Turns out that it has really worked hard on the carbon neutralisation of its business. It claims it will be “100% carbon-free from 2008”. Hmmm.

As with most internet service providers (ISPs), its customers come in two forms, those who insist on a dedicated machine and those who are happy to cohabit a machine with strangers. Software keeps them separate so each runs in a virtual machine.

Unlike many ISPs, Strato has ‘virtualised’ the shared hosting servers so that customers inhabit any machine that happens to be free. Many other ISPs insist that each customer always runs from the same shared server.

The Strato approach means that shared servers can be shut down during quiet periods, thus saving all their power. The other type of ISP has to keep its servers running all of the time.

That move alone cranked up Strato’s green rating.

It uses special Sun Fire T2000 processors which are focused to the work at hand and don’t waste energy sustaining unused features. For the dedicated servers, it uses AMD Opteron processors because they were the most energy efficient at the time of purchase. We’re talking big savings here: 70 to 90 percent over the previous processors.

Hardware and software is designed to reduce energy consumption. For example, it claims that its spam filter requires a tenth of the hardware of conventional filter systems. And its buildings and the computer layouts are designed for the same end. It claims that, thus far, it has reduced each customer’s energy use by 30 percent.

It bases its “100% carbon-free from 2008” on the fact that it will soon be getting its electricity from NaturEnergie’s hydro plants. The electricity is more expensive but this is more than offset by the savings mentioned above.

Strato’s story is a good one, but the “100% carbon free” spoils it a little. One should always consider the entire supply chain before making this sort of claim.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. […] September, I wrote about web-hosting company Strato and its green credentials. Just before I went on hols (very nice thank you), our beloved leader, […]

  2. Nick says:

    It appears that Strato UK no longer offer a virtual server package. They also insist on running a full backup of your virtual server including the OS between 1045 and 1145 every day. Sadly, this consumes so much server resource that website page load times jump from around 5 sec to over 3 minutes. They refuse to change the backup time when asked. Woeful customer service. Go elsewhere.

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