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Google: Cloud Services like Gmail Are 80 Times More Efficient Than Localized Email Services

By Stephen Lacey on September 9, 2011 at 9:48 am

"Google: Cloud Services like Gmail Are 80 Times More Efficient Than Localized Email Services"

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Previously, Climate Progress outlined four good reasons why cloud computing is better for the climate:

  1. Economies of scale
  2. Diversity and aggregation
  3. Flexibility
  4. Outsourcing

And new data from Google underscores those points: In a blog post yesterday, Google reports that using a service like Gmail is 80 times more efficient than enterprise services.

The analysis from Google shows that the real energy guzzlers (and therefore carbon emitters) are small businesses that can’t capture economies of scale. According to Google, small businesses with around 50 employees typically have to buy servers that are much more power intensive than what they need:


But it’s not just small businesses that have an impact. According to an August report on cloud computing from the Carbon Disclosure Project, large companies that plug into the cloud would have a massive impact on carbon emission reductions. The report found that American companies with revenues over $1 billion could cut CO2 by more than 85 million metric tons by 2020 annually by switching 69% of infrastructure to cloud services. That would equal $12.3 billion in economy-wide savings.

And what about all those YouTube videos of cats flushing toilets and skateboarders breaking bones you’re streaming? How energy intensive are those?

According to Google, not very. The servers required to run a minute of a YouTube video use about 0.0002 kWh of electricity. You’d have to watch those videos non-stop for three days before you’d consume the amount of energy required to produce, package and ship a DVD.

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11 Responses to Google: Cloud Services like Gmail Are 80 Times More Efficient Than Localized Email Services

  1. Chris Winter says:

    “According to Google, small businesses with around 50 employees typically have to buy servers that are much more power intensive than what they need…”

    So the solution is— ?

    a) Expand use of cloud services (esp. Gmail.)

    b) Design and market minimal, energy-efficient email servers for small businesses.

    Personally, I’d prefer b. I tend to want my data on my premises. What if an extreme weather event takes out the cloud computing facility?

    • sault says:

      The whole point of cloud computing is that it isn’t all in one facility. Your small business with its inefficient server that rarely, if ever, sees peak loading is a single facility that is vulnerable to extreme weather. The REAL drawback of cloud computing is security, but if quantum computing or some other nigh-invulnerable security technology gets developed, that weakness disappears entirely.

      • BruceJ says:

        And you also give up all control over your email services and put private company information on other people’s computers.

      • Chris Winter says:

        As BruceJ says, using a cloud means placing proprietary data on someone else’s system. Privacy and security are the most controversial aspects of cloud computing.

        As for site localization, the common situation AIUI is that many users, located anywhere, hook up to one of the servers at a central facility. So any given cloud is subject to local disasters. Wikipedia supports this view.

        And of course any computer-savvy business will make frequent backups of essential data and store them in some remote location such as a bank safe deposit box.

        • A J says:

          Or a web-based backup service. Security concerns can be somewhat alleviated by encrypting data files on the office server and then uploading them. More secure than just sending unprotected data to Google. If cloud services would typically offer on-the-fly data security with a private local key, that might be slightly different. But at this point I’m for centralized computing for non-vital/non-sensitive applications AND more efficient small business servers.

  2. David White says:

    The place where I provide contract services for the server and network has a huge solar power installation and uses geothermal for heating and cooling. The lights are also controlled by how much light comes through the numerous skylights.

    Google is just doing a blatant ad to get more users so they can data mine and sell their information. They produce nothing and take everything.

  3. PeterW says:

    I’m guessing this is based on Microsoft Exchange deployments. I know of one Email system that is used by many school boards in the U.S. that requires considerably less hardware to support a 10,000 user base. For a small/medium office it could be hosted on a Mac Mini. I would bet that would be competitive with Google.

    Perhaps this article should concentrate on how inefficient Microsoft Exchange is and not assume Google is the only solution.

    Also, one of the reasons companies and government organizations prefer not to let Google host their email services is because they don’t want Google snooping through their email.

  4. Mike#22 says:

    Google says 4 million businesses are using Google Apps. We switched over, works great, and pulled the plug on the 24/7 server.

    People just don’t realize how much power it takes to keep a server on. Add to that the hassles of software which is constantly patching itself.

    Any confidential information can be sent as an encrypted attachment.

  5. joe says:

    No this is not based on Microsoft Exchange 2010. This is just a blatant google marketing ad. Live@EDU, Office360 are cloud hosted. Exchange 2010 on premise can be deployed with low power consumption and can be scaled up or out. I am dissapointed to see this type of marketing on climate progress.

  6. quokka says:

    The report describes the claimed saving 85 millions tonnes of CO2 annually by 2020 by switching 69% of infrastructure to cloud services as massive. Err.. not quite. That’s 1.5% of US emissions – IF it happens at that scale, which for various reasons pointed out by other posters, it may not and IF the CO2 savings are as claimed.

    Expecting this sort of stuff to save the climate is a rather extreme case of optimism.

  7. Another cloud option is to have your servers hosted at a data center as a virtual server (with off site backups). One obstacle they’re not considering is that the cost of hosting + additional bandwidth is higher than the cost of the energy saved (even minus saved real estate). This is why my clients are not jumping to cloud options.