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Saving energy by using the cloud

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Grenfell Housing & Training told us why getting rid of their servers and moving to the cloud helped the environment, saved them money and increased the productivity of the whole organisation. Patrick Lumumba, IT and Facilities Manager, talks us through the reasons behind the decision and how they did it.

Background

Grenfell Housing & Training works with vulnerable young people in south west London to provide them with housing and training during periods of crisis, and help them become independent. Our old IT setup, where we had servers based at our offices, wasn’t really fit for purpose and we started to investigate alternatives to having servers on our premises. We decided that moving to the cloud was the best option for us as it offered lots of advantages. Once we moved to the cloud we realised that the benefits were far greater than we had originally imagined.

The issues we faced

Whenever there was a problem with our servers, an engineer had to travel to the office and manually fix the issue, costing us money and creating a lot of downtime for staff. On occasion, the server back-ups would also fail meaning that staff were losing work, which was particularly frustrating. A major drawback of having in-house servers, which we weren’t even aware of, was the size of our energy bills due to the cost of keeping the servers cool. We used to have the air conditioning on all the time but this led to more pressure on the cooling system as it often couldn’t cope with the demands of the servers!

The actions we took

We noticed that the cost of cooling the servers was becoming unmanageable and did a meter reading to work out exactly how much it was costing us. We realised the figure was far too high and investigated alternatives to storing servers in-house. Once we’d taken our meter reading, we sent it to a specialist who advised us that the cloud was the best option for us as there’s no office space needed and it would lower costs all round. We decided to put the process to tender as we needed a company to both remove the servers and transfer all our data and networks to the cloud. We chose three suppliers from the tender process, asked them for quotes and then decided which company to use for the work. We eventually decided on WorkPlaceLive who provide a bespoke IT service which uses the cloud. One of the reasons we worked with this supplier is due to their NCVO Trusted Supplier status. 

Positive outcomes

The process of moving from physical servers to the cloud went really smoothly and we benefitted greatly from upgrading our IT system. Moving to the cloud meant we saved time whenever there was an IT issue as we didn’t have to wait for an engineer to come out and fix the servers. Updates to our network can be done without negatively affecting staff time, and we don’t have to worry about replacing the servers or having manual backups as this is all done automatically. Overall, business continuity has improved a lot and staff can log on to the network from anywhere with an internet connection and from any device. 

Although we had made savings by moving to the cloud and not paying to cool our servers, we noticed that we were continuing to use a lot of energy. We continued to take meter readings after the move and noticed several things that were still causing the high energy bills. There was a temporary phone mast near our office which was using energy, and our water boilers cost a lot of money to run. WorkPlaceLive again were very useful as they directed us to an agency who monitor energy usage and we reduced our energy bills even further when we realised we were still spending too much money on other outputs.

Negative outcomes

We learned a lot through this process and we wish that we were more aware of energy usage sooner so that we weren’t paying as much. The best advice we can give is not only to check for energy usage on your equipment but to check the usage on each piece of equipment. We (wrongly) assumed that all of our energy usage was being spent on servers and air conditioning when a significant amount of our costs were coming from the nearby phone mast and our water boilers. 

Lessons learnt

The main thing we learned throughout this process was to keep a close eye on your bills and not to just accept how much you’re being charged. Find out if it’s possible to cut down your costs and how you can implement those changes at your organisation. By doing this, we’ve improved staff productivity, become more efficient, saved a lot of money and found a better way of working – all because we challenged one of our bills.  

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Page last edited Jul 10, 2017

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