Reducing IT costs in education

There is continuing pressure to reduce IT costs in education, perhaps to find resources and budget for new projects – and that means cutting the cost of running an existing project. But when you start thinking about reducing IT costs, how often do you consider the impact on other budget centres? I ask the question because there are many occasions when a small increase in resource in IT will deliver a much bigger reduction in resource or budget outside of IT. For example, reducing energy costs instead of reducing IT costs.

In terms of power management of desktop computers, there is often a significant saving possible, because of the large amounts of computers in a typical school, TAFE or university. But because the costs are not visible to IT, it can be missed.

But there’s a four figure saving possible, every year – so perhaps I can share some advice as four steps that could save you $15,000

  1. Go down to your local Bunnings and buy a power monitor plug. They cost $20-$30, and they’ll let you monitor all kinds of devices.
  2. Plug it into one of your computers for a week, so that it can tell you how much it costs per week/day/hour.
  3. Walk around your school/campus at 5 o’clock and count the number of unused computers that are switched on.
  4. Work out what it’s costing you per year for unused computers left switched on
  5. Go and see the principal with your back-of-the-envelope stats

If you’ve not done something like this before, I guarantee that you’re in for a surprise!

Although there are lots of other case studies, you may be interested to read how we’ve rolled out power saving settings within Microsoft (and if you think your teachers are hard to please with technology, imagine what it’s like providing IT services for 100,000+ IT geeks).

Our IT team at Microsoft have recently implemented a worldwide power management strategy across 165,000 desktop and laptop computers used within our business right around the world, to contribute to our goal of reducing our carbon emissions by 30% over five years.

The benefits that they’ve calculated are:

  • 27% drop in power used by managed desktop computers
  • 12.33 kilowatt hours saving per desktop per month
  • $12 to $15 saving per desktop computer per year

imageIn the case study, the framework of power settings are discussed, along with the practical implications and the lessons learnt. For example, the first method used was a simple policy setting on setting up a new user/computer, but they found that 80% of users simply permanently overrode the setting within 30 days. The second method was to have an extended 60-minute time-to-sleep setting, which would be refreshed regularly, so that even if the user changed it temporarily (eg to stay on for a presentation) it would reset again later.

The team relied very heavily on System Center Configuration Manager, which meant that they could apply policies and measure the impact of them over time. The chart on Power Environmental Impact is one of the examples from the pilot. Having data displayed in this way allows you to demonstrate the savings impact to your senior management team, and calculate reduction in your carbon footprint or energy bills.

You may not need to use System Center – you can make a start simply for free by changing some of the default power settings when you deploy new computers . But if you’ve got hundreds of computers, it might be worth starting to calculate just how much money you might save with a much more comprehensive power management strategy.

Learn MoreRead the full Microsoft IT case study on power savings with Windows