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Summary:

Cloud-based Gmail is a more energy efficient option compared to companies’ locally-hosted email solutions, according to Google. That’s largely due to the inherent efficiencies of the cloud, and also Google’s own brand of energy efficient servers and data centers.

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Google says switching to Gmail can be close to 80 times more energy-efficient for an organization than in-house email, particularly for smaller companies. On Wednesday, the search engine giant unveiled a report looking into just how much energy can be saved by organizations using Google’s cloud-based Gmail compared to companies’ own locally hosted email.

Data continues to emerge about how cloud computing can lead to more energy-efficient computing compared to businesses’ own in-house IT. And Google continues to lead these discussions.

The energy savings in Gmail come from the cloud’s inherent ability to provision a large amount of servers more efficiently (more work can be shared collectively across the servers) compared to the common, and less-efficient, provisioning model for most small companies’ in-house email (see chart to the right).

In addition, Google’s cloud-based email servers are largely housed and cooled in a lot more energy-efficient environments, and Google pioneered some of the most energy-efficient and green data centers in the Internet industry. Google even designs and builds its own servers to be as efficient as possible in a cloud environment. In contrast, a small company often times doesn’t have the resources, economies of scale, or technical knowledge to implement these energy-efficient techniques.

Google’s cloud-based Gmail for Google Apps is used by 4 million organizations, says Google, so Google’s report is partly a pitch for your company to switch over to its email service. But the inherent efficiencies in the cloud also work for other Google’s services, like video.

Google closes up a blog post by pointing out that the servers used to play one minute of YouTube video only consume about 0.0002 kWh of energy — so you’d have to watch YouTube for three days for Google’s servers to consume the amount of energy equivalent to make, package and ship a DVD. Another fun fact: Google says it takes more energy to send a message in a wine bottle (including the energy to make the bottle and drink the wine) than it does to use Gmail for one year.

Studies like these are important because there’s long been a spotlight on the growing energy footprint of the Internet. But thanks to both energy-efficiency technologies and virtualization (and also the recession), data centers that run the Internet actually consumed less electricity than expected between 2005 and 2010, according to a report by researcher Jonathan Koomey. While data center electricity consumption doubled between 2000 and 2005, the electricity consumption of data centers grew by just 56 percent globally between 2005 and 2010, and specifically grew by 36 percent in the U.S. over that time period.

Thanks to Google’s energy efficiency data center work, Google accounts for 0.8 percent of the world’s data center infrastructure, but only accounts for .011 percent overall data center energy usage, according to Koomey.

  1. What about the security aspects? Sensitive company-specific information out there in Gmail?

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  2. If you’re going to cite to a Google Report, could you please link to the report (or provide its title so that its searchable). I thought that was a given in the web 2.0 era.

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