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Go Greener with Cloud-based Solutions

June 19, 2019

Go Greener with Cloud-based Solutions

Synopsis
7 Minute Read

Explore how Cloud-based solutions can help your organization reduce its carbon footprint.

Viewpoint Paper: Go Greener with Cloud-based Solutions

In today’s business technology climate, there are conflicting priorities organizations of every size need to address.

Managing data, storing content and complying with regulation are not simple tasks. Accomplishing this while being environmentally friendly adds a new layer of complexity. This is not an easy problem to solve, but the answer is out there.

Cloud-based solutions are key to implementing a holistic and workable approach to data and information management. By addressing full life cycle information management, organizations can reduce operational costs for storing and managing information, better meet compliance requirements and become more environmentally responsible.

INTRODUCTION

The rate at which organizations collect and create content has grown astronomically based on the increases in technology usage by individuals and organizations. According to a new report from IBM Marketing Cloud, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, at 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. With new devices, sensors and technologies emerging, the data growth rate is set to accelerate even more.

Focus on the word “create” for a second. Think about how many duplicate copies of documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. are generated post-creation. We tend to distribute copies of documents as email attachments or print outs rather than share them from one place.

Now, think about the increasing amount of data that is available to the organization – from sensors, social media, external data feeds into business processes, etc. What data do we need to keep? Where do we store it? How do we make use of it? How many copies of the data set exist and which one is the source of truth? These are issues to address to ensure that we keep our costs for storage optimized, meet our risk and compliance requirements and understand where there are opportunities to become ‘greener’ at managing our information and data holdings.

Controlling the overall costs of operations in order to preserve operating margins in a competitive environment is imperative. With the explosion in compliance requirements that enterprises must meet, the corporation takes on added costs and the bottom line erodes. The stakes are high: fines, sanctions and, in some cases, jail time await if you fail to comply. But compliance comes at an added cost to the organization.

All of this is happening while social expectations are quickly changing. Increasingly, shareholders are asking businesses to become “greener” and, in some cases, investors are punishing the corporations in the stock market when they do not show real progress.

Unfortunately, most organizations see going green as a cost. The view is that being environmentally friendly hurts when the competitive market is asking you to cut costs, not add them.

Now organizations can address those challenges by implementing proven data and information management (DM/IM) strategies and by taking a long-view approach to data and information life cycle management (DLM/ILM). In this paper, MNP demonstrates how you can leverage basic common sense and industry best practices to meet those objectives.

COSTS MATTER

Costs are a key driver for more efficient data and information management. Several initiatives have continued the effort to evolve from a paper-based society to a more efficient and cost-effective electronic environment. Running counter to that electronic trend is the continued urge to print out hard copies of many documents – many cling to paper copies as the source of truth.

Even in the electronic world, ineffective business processes tend to produce high volumes of replicated data and documents. There is a tendency to store electronic copies of a document or a data set in multiple places. This proliferation of electronic copies greatly magnifies the size and cost of electronic storage infrastructure and requires systems and computing power to find specific bits of information among growing enterprise repositories.

We can start by rethinking the costs of energy and maintaining our own data centre compared to leveraging a cloud-based infrastructure provider. An IBM study showed that less than four percent of energy going into a data centre is used to process something.

By shifting workloads to a cloud-based application, we can take advantage of server capacity and work with the cloud service provider to better manage the capacity of the servers.

Virtualization is a foundational technology that allows a single physical server to run multiple operating system images concurrently. As an enabler of consolidation, server virtualization reduces the total physical server footprint.

What does this mean? From a resource-efficiency perspective, organizations require less equipment to run workloads, proactively reducing data centre space and the eventual e-waste footprint. From an energy-efficiency perspective, a data centre consumes less energy by plugging in less physical equipment.

The presence of virtualization alone doesn't maximize energy and resource efficiencies. To rapidly provision, move and scale workloads, cloud-based infrastructure relies on automation software.

Combining the right skills with operational and architectural standards, automation allows IT professionals to make the most of their cloud-based infrastructure investment by pushing the limits of traditional consolidation and utilization ratios. Higher ratios mean less physical infrastructure, maximizing the energy and resource efficiencies from server virtualization.

Additionally, the pay-as-you-go nature of cloud-based infrastructure encourages users to only consume what they need and nothing more. Combined with self-service, life-cycle management improves because users can consume infrastructure resources only when they need it and turn off these resources with set expiration times.

How can organizations effectively address these cost-related data and information life cycle management issues? It begins with rethinking and transforming their processes to take full advantage of content and reduce its creation and duplication. Next, organizations should review the support requirements for those transformed processes and seek to create a new and more cost-efficient approach to printing, imaging and information management.

Specific steps could include the following:

  • Optimizing infrastructure: By assessing their current situation and shifting to more reliable, cost-effective cloud-based, organizations reduce energy costs and waste while gaining visibility and control over enterprise content.
  • Manage the digital environment: Organizations can now leverage cloud-based tools, eco-friendly hardware on premise and more efficient printing and imaging management tools and services. Improved management enables companies to optimize the use of their resources, control costs and drive growth.
  • Improve workflow: Organizations can now also use software-as-a-service solutions and platforms-as-a-service to transform document-intensive workflows and information management. Those steps help enhance security and compliance, reducing risk to the enterprise. Organizations can also leverage a proven, cost-efficient cloud-based model to better manage corporate content and information. Forward-looking enterprises can now outsource non-core functions to organizations that have the capability to leverage more economic infrastructure -including mailroom and scanning equipment, document composition and print or electronic output systems - while they are leveraging cloud-based application platforms for data-based applications. By leveraging a cloud-based repository as the storage solution, organizations can expand content repository capacity at a lower cost. This cloud-based strategy enables companies and agencies to match the time value of information against true costs still meet the requirements of compliance retention and enterprise business rules.

Enterprises can also apply basic information management principles that call for retaining and managing only the information that must be kept according to law or regulation, or for specified purposes of knowledge retention and reuse. Hoarding less content means improved processing times, improved search and retrieval times for critical information. And less information life cycle management infrastructure in-house means lower cost.

COMMON SENSE DATA AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT

Most organizations do not have the data and information management policies, guidelines or strategies needed to meet their own basic business needs. They also lack the retention capabilities to satisfy legal, regulatory or compliance requirements for both data and information.

There are some common-sense steps companies can take to better manage data and information. A good approach starts with an assessment of the organization’s current data and information management environments. By using a maturity model approach, this assessment can help determine what data or information to keep, why, for how long, where and in what format. The assessment should also determine what data to retain for specific regulatory or corporate knowledge purposes.

An initial assessment should address the following:

  •   Who creates and uses enterprise data and information?
  •   What types of data, information, formats and files are currently in use?
  •   How old, usable and valuable is existing data and information?
  •   Where is the data or information stored and how and where is it duplicated?
  •   What are the organization’s fundamental data and information management goals?

Next, the company should go through a rationalization exercise to identify and eliminate duplicate copies of content or sets of data. Then, analyze the smaller set of remaining for compliance purposes to identify what to keep and what can be eliminated, based on a clearly defined retention policy. Keep the end goal in mind: to establish a common-sense approach to data and information life cycle management.

Life cycle management combines the functions and technologies needed to capture, store, archive, distribute, reuse and dispose of corporate data and information. When they institute a workable data and information management program, organizations keep only those documents and data sets they need for compliance and knowledge print only what must be used in hard copy and they do not duplicate information or data solely for the sake of duplication.

A rational data and information management approach enables an organization to achieve the following:

  • Organize: This establishes the enterprise data and information management direction by evaluating and validating governance and vision, and by creating data and information management standards, procedures and guidelines.
  • Leverage: Organizations should use current IT assets to implement initial data and information management capabilities.
  • nvest: Good planning identifies the required tools to implement data and information management in the organization.
  • Consolidate and convert: As appropriate, transition existing systems and leverage them in the new environment.
  • Optimize: Based on the organization’s stated data and information management goals, take steps to create a single enterprise view and to drive continuous data and information management improvement.

Items that are to be retained and stored as items flowing from ongoing processes – can be captured and managed by a cloud-based records management infrastructure or a cloud-based data archive solution. This enables the organization to reduce costs while meeting compliance requirements.

Review knowledge artifacts to determine what to keep for reuse. Archive those items into the central cloud repository platform for management and discover or access by using search engines and other tools that ensure duplicate copies are not created, stored or distributed across the network.

By embedding these types of common-sense business rules into their business process logic, organizations can automate a large part of the data and information management framework. When sending an email with an attachment, for example, invoke a rule that:

  1. takes a copy of the attachment from the email and puts it in the central replacing the attachment with a secure link to the document; and,
  2. determines if that message must be stored as a corporate record - and, if so, automatically routes it to the appropriate system or applies the appropriate governance to the message for management in the central repository.

The combination of the common-sense rules and cloud-based information architecture approach reduces the amount of data and information organizations must keep on hand and stores needed information according to retention requirements. This helps organizations comply with information management-oriented regulatory requirements. Taking this approach reduces the cost of storing and managing enterprise information and enables the smooth transformation of business processes to a digital-first approach.

Robust data and information life cycle management reduces the cost of information structureand consumables. It leverages the most cost-efficient hardware – the cloud service providers. Life cycle management approaches optimize the data and information estate of an organization, provide quicker access to needed information, thereby enhancing productivity, reducing risk and improving compliance.

  •   Supports the creation and use of electronic documents less than traditional methods
  •   Reduces the need for individual copies, reducing the number of reproduced / distributed documents
  •   Can reduce the average cost of reproduction by 63 percent when used with appropriate corporate processes and practices
  •   Can eliminate up to half of all document storage requirements
  •   Handles document approval processes electronically, reducing the time, cost and losses related to information management

Focusing on the realm of unstructured information for a moment, here are some benefits of the cloud-based information management life cycle approach:

BRINGING IT BACK TO “GREEN”

Good life cycle management helps organizations reduce their overall carbon footprint and achieve their broader environmental goals.

Carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by an individual of an industry. Research from Gartner Inc. found that two percent of global carbon emissions are from the information and communications technology industry. According to a variety of analyst reports, the carbon footprint is caused by the real estate needed to house and store the server. Some estimate cloud computing could lead to a 38 percent decrease in the amount of energy used by data centers by the year 2020.

There are several practical steps available to reduce the footprint of data and information management activities. By retaining and managing less information, organizations reduce infrastructure needs and costs, allowing them to drop internal costs and use those savings to fund green initiatives.

Fewer machines: In many small business and corporate environments, server utilization rates hover around 5 to 10 percent. This means you need more servers to get the same amount of work done. With the cloud, utilization rates are typically 60 to 70 percent — shared data centers can employ fewer machines to get an equivalent capacity.

Fewer machines equals fewer dollars spent. Servers can be expensive to purchase and maintain, and with such a low utilization rate, it is not an effective use of money. Data loads vary, but you must have enough servers to handle the peak times. The rest of the time, these extra machines are sitting idly.

Consolidated climate control costs: For a server to run at peak performance, its temperature and humidity level must be carefully controlled. Cloud providers can take advantage of efficient layouts, such as rack-first, that are hard for in-house data centres to replicate.

This makes the cloud servers more environmentally friendly and eliminates the cost from your company altogether. If you don’t have many servers that you need to carefully control the climate for, you don’t need to pay to carefully control the climate. This can lead to huge savings on energy bills.

Efficient equipment: Larger data centers often have the resources to allow them to upgrade energy-saving equipment and building systems, allowing your cloud computing to be more environmentally friendly while also saving you money.

Organizations should understand that these efforts do not eliminate all potential environmental impacts. However, if the organization also adopts a cloud-based application / platform as a service approach, they further reduce their environmental impact. One measure of that impact is the carbon Footprint.

If large organizations start embracing cloud computing, they can lessen energy utilization and carbon outflows by 30 percent by accessing cloud-based, networked resources. Cloud computing empowers organizations to enter markets without meeting the capital expenses of building their own computer framework, allowing organizations to reach new heights.

The bottom line is that cloud registering permits higher equipment usage. Applications run on less hardware, resulting in less equipment and less energy usage.

With the cloud fast progressing towards becoming standard in less than five years, cloud computing could have a tremendous positive impact on the environment.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

Data and information are some of an organization’s most valuable competitive assets. Organizations need to take a deeper look at the data and information they have and develop a better understanding of how leveraging cloud-based computing can help them reach their goals.

MNP’s Consulting and Technology Services teams provide a range of services to help clients understand and consider the competitive and environmental benefits of moving to the cloud.

Technology Advisory Services: MNP’s Technology Advisory team works with clients to undertake digital and technology transformation strategy and plan development. We have worked with numerous clients to define and implement cloud-based transition strategies — including “green computing”—as a key element of the strategy. MNP can provide assessment and advisory services to help your organization become digital-first and more environmentally friendly, providing benchmarking capability as you seek to reduce your carbon footprint.

MNP also provides assessment services of a client’s current data and information management environments. By using a maturity model approach, these assessments help determine what data or information you need to keep, why, for how long, where and in what format. The assessment also determines what data to retain for specific regulatory or corporate knowledge purposes.

MNP Cloud-Based Application Platform: MNP has developed a Digital Acceleration Platform (DAP) for our clients, providing them access to a range of cloud-based business applications platforms from one central portal. From customer relationship management to enterprise resource planning applications, we have built out a platform that allows clients to take advantage of cloud-based applications by using MNP as their portal / cloud provider. This solution platform, combined with advisory services, enables MNP clients to rapidly transition into a digitalized company and to accelerate their journey to a being greener, digital-first business.

Data and Information Dynamics – Implementation Services: MNP’s Technology Solutions team has a national Data & Information Dynamics practice that works with clients to help them devise strategies and planning roadmaps and implement information and data governance and management processes and solutions. With both public and private sector clients, our team works with clients to not only improve existing application performance, etc., but to transition clients into more digital, cloud-based solutions. We will work with your internal team to design and implement the appropriate cloud-based infrastructure and application solution to accelerate your digital transformation and to make your organization greener.

MNP has worked with a broad range of clients to enable their digital transformation journey, helping them develop and implement cloud-based infrastructure and application strategies, providing them with the ability to benchmark their transition to a greener organization. How can we help you?

To learn more about cloud-based solutions, contact John Desborough, Director, IT Consulting, at 613.271.3700 (ext. 8538) or [email protected]

ABOUT MNP

MNP is a leading national accounting, tax and business consulting firm in Canada. We proudly serve and respond to the needs of our clients in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Through partner-led engagements, we provide a collaborative, cost-effective approach to doing business and personalized strategies to help organizations succeed across the country and around the world.

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