Choosing Sustainable Cloud Services

When you choose to purchase cloud services for your business or organisation you might be concerned about the sustainability of those services, or whether in purchasing services run from major datacentres you’re actually making the problem of climate change worse.

The simple truth is that it can be very difficult to gauge how climate friendly cloud services providers are, because the information is often commercially sensitive.  Take some of the smaller providers for services like security and telecoms.  If you search for the name of your provider and the word “sustainability” then you could find they have no sustainability policies on their website at all.

One of the largest worldwide telecoms providers, 3CX does at the time of writing have no sustainability information on their website short of a single blog post that’s now some time out of date.

The truth is though that very few of these companies will run their own datacentres.  These massive structures are hugely expensive to run, so it’s far more likely they will run on top of services provided by the major players in the market, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Tencent.

These four companies are much better at providing sustainability information, and you can find them on the links below.  Indeed, since I wrote The Green IT Guide (Apress, 2022) the sustainability information from Tencent is new, showing that more companies are coming on board all the time.

Some of these companies will say they are already sustainable, but also have targets for sustainability.  Both statements can’t be true and the former will effectively be untrue.  Many companies use “carbon offsetting” as a way to reduce their impact on the environment.  This means they are investing in renewable projects around the world that are run by third-parties, it does not necessarily mean they are doing anything to reduce their own emissions.

However the big four cloud services providers do have strong statements of intent which they update their websites on regularly.  Tencent has additional challenges, being largely based in China where so much energy is still generated by the burning of fossil fuels, but taking the subject seriously can often be enough.

So when you are purchasing cloud services, especially from a smaller provider, it is worth interrogating them about their sustainability policies if they do not publish them on their website.  You’re the one with the money and the purchasing power and it’ll be for you to decide if the answers they give you are satisfactory enough to reassure you.

If you are purchasing directly with one of the four main cloud services providers then you will get far more access to information, and you can if you choose keep up to date with their blogs on the subject.

Learn how to make your computer and smartphone use more environmentally friendly and sustainable with Mike Halsey’s book “The Green IT Guide“, now on sale from Apress, Amazon, and all good book sellers.