With over 1.7 billion websites live on the internet1 and all those websites being stored and loaded from a physical server somewhere in the world, it's ever more important to be storing and loading those websites using a green hosting provider.
Server farms and data centres are responsible for much of the energy consumed by internet usage. Containing thousands of computers, these large inconspicuous warehouses generate a lot of heat. This heat must be managed in order to keep the computers - your websites - running efficiently. Unfortunately, the cooling processes for many of these server farms also use up a lot of energy. Worse still, many data centres use energy from fossil fuel burning power stations, which causes huge amounts of carbon emissions.
Thankfully there is something we can do to avoid these carbon emissions. That is to use a green hosting company utilising renewable energy and other green practices to operate their business.
It's much easier than you might think to find a green web hosting company these days. If you're currently hosting a website, or websites, the first thing to do is to check in with your current hosting provider. Many have online support chat or ticketing systems, or pick up the good 'ol phone to chat to someone directly. Ask them about their environmental policy, how they utilise energy, and if they are powered by renewable sources of energy.
You may be surprised, as there are companies out there who may not actually post information about using green energy, or their environmental policies publicly on their own website or social channels, but that do indeed use green energy. So, ask away. There's nothing to lose in asking.
If the unfortunate situation occurs and your current web host does not use renewable energy or have a proper environmental policy in place, then it's time to ask whether they will ever being doing so and when that will be. If it is a no, then it's time to look elsewhere.
A great resource for finding a green web hosting company is by searching the directory on The Green Web Foundation. They have a great deal of green hosting companies listed there, around 490 at the time of writing. Listed by country, you can easily find one that geographically sits close to you and your website users. The importance of geographic location of servers can be found in our write up here.
Now it's time to reach out to that green hosting provider, to find out just how green they are. Similar to talking to your current hosting provider, you will want to ask them some questions. Here are a few more examples:
- Do they have a sustainability or environmental policy?
- Do they use renewable energy?
- How and where do they get their renewable energy? From an established supplier through a national grid? Or perhaps through their own generation (such as their own solar panels or wind turbines)
- Do they offset any of their carbon emissions or business activity? (and how they offset if they do)
- Whether they offer any built in tools such as caching, or their own CDN service that can make websites more sustainable
- How they manage software running on their servers, such as checking for the latest versions of code languages that run a website
- What the Power Usage Effective (PUE) rating is - which is a standard formula for measuring the power used for running the servers compared to power used for other business activity such as cooling the machinery or lighting within the building
In our experience, you're not likely to get solid answers for all of the questions above from one provider. But the important thing is to ask the questions.
Speaking openly about these criteria reinforces the importance of them to you as a potential customer. This in turn will help to guide the company in doing better, or more in their practices to be even more sustainable. If they can see a business case for doing so, then there is even more reason for them to do more.
Finding the right green hosting company really depends on what you need from the service, where you're located and choosing the one that best suits your ideals for more green options. The point is, there are lots of options out there and some great companies pushing for more sustainable ways to host websites and applications.
Who do you host with? We'd love to know! Let us know in the comments, or Tweet us @sustainabledevs and tag your hosting provider.