The Green Digital Archive October 14, 2009

When building an archive for digital records, there are many things that you need to consider. Everything from where will your cabling go, to what types of racks, how many servers are needed, what will the flooring be and so forth.

However, as servers are being created smaller and faster, they are also using more and more energy. The 2006 Worldwide Server Power and Cooling Expense: 2006-2010 Forecast report by IBM Data Centre estimated that in 1996 a small to medium sized server required 150 watts of power and approximated that by 2010 this will have increased to 450 watts. The report also estimated that in the year 2000, for every dollar spent on new servers, 21 cents was spent on power and cooling. By 2010 it is predicted that for every dollar spent on new servers will require 71 cents to be spent on power and cooling. Whilst servers and hence data storage may be considered cheap now, the associated costs of power and cooling, including environmental costs are increasing.

Simple measures that can limit power usage include:

  • Ensuring airflow is sufficient – In general, unrestricted air flow requires less power for cooling efforts.
  • Dust and dirt – Dust can clog equipment and cling to the sides of active equipment. There should be an active program for the regular cleaning of the entire digital repository.
  • Moving more cables into overhead raceways opens up airflow underneath floor panels.
  • Only use lights when necessary or use a motion control or timer – lights use electricity and generate added heat which requires cooling.
  • Reduce overall data centre lighting by using portable lights within each cabinet. This also helps technicians as light can be adjusted and directed where it is needed.

Each small adjustment results in less power and cooling and should be an aspect of the design plans for a digital archive. As NSW and Australia move towards reducing their carbon pollution, it is imperative that all digital repositories whether public or private are aware of the environmental impacts as well as the potential expense of their endeavours and aim to minimise their energy consumption.

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