Four important ways IT maintenance can become more sustainable

In recent years, digital transformation progress has unlocked many benefits for businesses. As a result, traditional forms of digital services don't always receive their fair share of praise, particularly when it comes to decarbonization.

In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, we must limit global temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This global agreement has been in place for years. Consequently, I believe that all aspects of IT (not just the latest digital solutions) have a role to play in helping secure the lower carbon future that our planet so desperately needs.
In this blog, I will explore four different ways that we can improve IT maintenance and support in order to limit carbon emissions and contribute toward a greener planet.

1. Switch to remote support

Wherever possible, support should be provided remotely via consolidated resources. Many support requests can be resolved remotely, so remote support should be the default mode of operations. On-site resources should be utilized only when it is absolutely necessary.

Reducing on-site visits avoids the carbon emissions created by traveling and commuting that otherwise would have occurred. We believe that enterprises should commit to adopting a remote support model to the greatest extent possible, in order to resolve support requests efficiently while reducing the carbon emissions associated with on-site support.

2. Ensure system uptime

Predictive maintenance can reduce the number of on-site interventions even further. End-to-end monitoring proactively assesses the condition and workload of components — automatically sending alerts when a higher-than-normal likelihood of failure is detected.

This monitoring enables proactive actions to be applied to equipment. For example, components can be swapped out in advance to ensure steady workloads can continue to function, which reduces the risk of system failure.

High availability services require additional redundancy to be built into a system, and are usually reserved for the most critical systems. This redundancy means that workloads can continue to function in the event of a fault occurring. With this type of safety net in place, the time required for remote troubleshooting can be accommodated — as opposed to desperately scrambling for an on-site resource.

Research suggests that preventative maintenance strategies can result in up to a 20% savings in raw material usage, a strategy that can also be applied to your appliances at home. This 20% savings is easy to believe in an IT context, considering the smaller number of parts that need replacing and the reduced risk that additional components in a system will become compromised.

3. Increase product lifespans

By utilizing maintenance providers, equipment life can be extended because third parties often have the capability to provide services for equipment and models that the manufacturer has ceased supporting. Wherever possible, we encourage organizations to take steps to extend the life of assets and prolong refresh cycles — as long as the equipment is still in good working condition and fit for purpose.

This practice is more sustainable and often offers commercial advantages, which include being able to delay large spend on refreshes and avoiding the risks associated with refreshes, since fully functioning environments remain undisrupted.

From a sustainability standpoint, extending the life of equipment is a highly virtuous behavior. Not only does it support the UN Policy of Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns by encouraging less consumption and less demand for production, it also aligns with the EU’s recent Ecodesign requirements for servers and storage regulation.

The EU circular economy action plan emphasizes that durability and repairability are key to ensuring that product lifespans can be increased. This regulation specifically looks at energy efficiency and product lifecycle to improve the environmental impact of products. Additionally, it encourages greater usage of maintenance providers as it sets out requirements that facilitate maintenance, repairs and overall product longevity.

4. Decommission equipment responsibly

When it is no longer viable to continue supporting an asset, the final stage is for it to exit the environment. It is vital that assets are disposed of in a secure and sustainable way, not only to minimize the environmental impact, but also to remove any vulnerabilities that assets may leave if not decommissioned correctly.

The EU Waste and Electronic Equipment regulation (WEEE II and WEEE II II) outlines how equipment should be disposed of. Therefore, we recommend that enterprises take steps to ensure that all decommissioned assets are disposed of through a WEEE-certified organization.

By ensuring that equipment is sustainably retired and removed, we can ensure that the negative impact and waste of redundant assets are minimized. Parts can be either reused or recycled, and parts that cannot be recycled will be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Conclusion

Ultimately, proper maintenance is the best way to keep materials in use. In the diagram below, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation provides a helpful illustration of the different elements of the circular economy. The smaller circles represent the most efficient solutions in terms of cost.

Circular economy systems diagram

Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation (February 2019)

You will notice that maintenance makes up the smallest circle and is thus the most efficient and accessible solution. This is because maintenance is about supporting the same equipment, materials and assets that in use today. With the rising costs of raw materials and end-of-life treatment, maintenance is a great way to make significant strides towards the circular economy and act more sustainably.

With the rising costs of raw materials and end-of-life treatment, maintenance is the most efficient and accessible way to make strides towards the circular economy and act more sustainably.

We would love to hear your questions or thoughts about how maintenance is supporting your global sustainability efforts. Feel free to reach out to me below to share your thoughts!

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About Ray Knight
Global Maintenance Business Development Manager


Ray originally joined Atos in 2015 focusing on supporting client’s journey to the cloud. In 2018, Ray focused on supporting clients globally in the Maintenance and Support area ensuring costs are optimized and end-user systems are kept up and running. Since 2021 Ray has focused on decarbonization and is supporting Telecom, Media & Technology clients in Northern Europe reduce their carbon emissions through leveraging innovative and tailored solutions.
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