Decreasing Data Storage: A Win-Win for the Environment and Efficiency

One of our Better Business Principles, ‘Interrogate the Impact’ means we’re always on the hunt to find more sustainable ways of doing what we do. And sometimes this can come from the more unexpected places – here’s our latest take on how you can make your data storage more ethical…

The cloud revolutionised how we store and access data. With cloud computing, businesses can store and process data on remote servers, rather than their own hardware. This can save businesses money and space, and it can also make it easier to access data from anywhere in the world.

However, cloud computing also has an environmental impact. The energy required to power and cool cloud servers is significant, and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the cloud is estimated to account for 1.5% of global electricity consumption [1].

There are many ways to reduce the environmental impact of cloud data storage; one is to decrease the amount of data that is stored. This can be done by deduplication, which is the process of identifying and removing duplicate data. Another is to use compression, which is the process of reducing the size of data files without losing any information. 

We recently helped Google with the latter: compressing large amounts of data. Previously we had an “intra-day output” – which means that a new dataset was being saved and stored each day – leading to a huge amount of data. By compressing the data over 3 to 4 weeks, we created an aggregated data view that increased data storage capacity and reduced energy usage, without compromising the level of detail the client required.

Decreasing data storage in the cloud is a win for us as a B Corp and, most of all, for the environment. By reducing the amount of data stored, we can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet. And yes, it can also save money – by decreasing the amount of storage space needed – and improve efficiency – by requiring less resource to manage and store data.

We encourage all businesses and partners in our network by considering these options to reduce data storage:

  • Deduplication: Identifying and removing duplicate data – this can in part be done by optimising your queries. 
  • Query Optimisation: This works hand in hand with storage. The more complicated your query, the most computational power it uses up. By optimising this you can use less energy and save cost in running your queries.   
  • Compression: Reducing the size of data files without losing information. This can be within your cloud environments (GCP, Azure, etc.) or your on-premises storage.  
  • Data archiving: Storing data for long-term retention. This can be done on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Data backup: Creating copies of data for disaster recovery purposes. This can be done on-premises or in the cloud.

By taking these steps, we can all reduce the environmental impact of cloud computing, whilst also increasing data efficiencies. We call it ‘ethical data’. 

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