The cost-of-energy crisis in the UK has hit every industry hard, and with a 635 % increase in UK data centre power costs, data centres are being heavily affected by this. Energy price increases are an unavoidable situation for data centres and our customers and there’s still uncertainty about the future, especially with the Government's current energy bill relief scheme for businesses only running until 31st March 2023. Like us at 4D, many data centres have had to critically review and adapt to how they procure power; moving away from long-term contracts to hedging or day-ahead models to get the best possible rates and limit the impact on their business and on the end customer. You might be feeling hard-hit right now, from all sides, but you can still take back some control of the situation and try to limit the impact of rising energy costs with our energy-saving tips:
1. Establish a roadmap for price rises
Ask your data centre about their energy contract, and when it next renews. If you haven’t had a price rise already, this will give you a good ballpark about when one could be coming. It will also give you an idea of whether another price rise could come.
You should also ask your data centre about how they’re going to roll out any price rises and how they're now precuring their power. Knowing whether they're purchasing on a day-ahead basis, or hedging the market will help you plan your budget and prepare for any further cost increases. Despite the ongoing market volatility, a lot of data centres will be setting new consistent energy prices (at least over a minimum time period), so that you still have a reliable and consistent bill.
2. Make sure any price rises come at cost
If and when any price increases are announced, make sure this is being passed onto you ‘at cost’. A lot of data centres (including 4D) are not adding any profit onto the new cost-of-energy but increasing their customers’ prices by the exact same amount their costs have been increased. This reduces the pressure put on data centre clients and keeps prices as low as possible.
3. Check the plan for when energy costs go back down (hopefully)
With how volatile the energy market has been in recent history, no one knows what might happen to energy prices in the next few years, or even in the next few months, since the Government's existing bill protection scheme only runs until the end of March 2023. The hope is that energy prices will eventually drop and settle, bringing relief to all the businesses currently paying massively increased energy bills. You don’t want to be left with inflated energy prices and should have commitments from your data centre to reduce their energy prices if their costs drop.
4. Work with an energy-efficient data centre
There has been a lot of investment from the data centre industry into energy-efficient and sustainable technologies; this was previously done with an environmental-impact focus rather than anything to do with operating costs, but the cost-of-energy crisis has changed that. Data centres with better energy-efficiency will be less affected by the rising costs of energy since they use less energy (all of which is relevant to you, the customer, since your monthly fees also cover the energy costs of running the data centre as a whole and not just the power to your rack).
The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) score of a data centre is a useful benchmark to check their energy-efficiency and compare to others, and you can watch a video explaining PUE and how it’s calculated here. You should also check what temperature your data centre keeps the data floor, since it can be more efficient to operate at a higher temperature, but that will lead to your server fans working harder.
5. Review the equipment in your rack
Ensure you’re not using more energy than necessary by having unnecessary or outdated hardware in your server rack. If you have unused or rarely used hardware, see if you can consolidate it down, making use of capacity elsewhere, and remove some servers from the rack.
It will also be worthwhile to perform a cost-comparison between keeping your existing equipment, or upgrading to newer, more energy-efficiency servers, which could save you money in the long-term. If you have particularly old servers in your rack, this will almost certainly be worth it.
6. Check the energy-efficiency of your overall system
As well as managing what hardware is in your rack, make sure it is operating with as much energy-efficiency as possible. Check the power profile settings on your hardware to see if they can run more efficiently. Also do a review of processes and workloads to see if there are times in the day when equipment can be powered down because it isn’t needed 24/7.
7. Tidy your server rack
Messy cable management can block airflow through your rack, meaning your server fans have to work harder to move air and use more energy than necessary. Getting your cables neatly bundled up will reduce the number of vents they block, allowing the cooled air of the data floor to pass over your servers easier. You can also use a thermal camera for an in-depth look into your server rack to find hot spots and clear anything blocking air flow.
8. Compare data centre pricing
In this difficult economic climate, different businesses will be using different tactics to cope, make sure you continue to get the best deal by keeping an eye on data centre pricing. If you’re happy to move, you might find a better deal on your services. And even if you’re not planning to move, getting some competitor pricing will give you an edge in any negotiations taking place with your current provider.
However, you need to make sure you’re comparing apples with apples, and all pricing you look at must include an explanation of any upcoming energy price increases. If a quote looks too good to be true, it probably is, and you’ll likely be hit with a cost increase shortly after switching, so be cautious and make sure you’re getting transparency.
A data centre is still the place to be
It might be tempting to look at some radical alternatives with data centres issuing significant energy price increases, but it’s important to remember that data centres are significantly more energy-efficient than on-premises systems. This is unprecedented times of volatile energy prices for data centres and their customers, but by working together and pursuing energy-efficiencies, the impact can be lessened.
If you want some insight into comparing the energy-efficiency of different data centres and what to watch out for, you can see our green credentials here. And if you think you could benefit from working with an award-winning data centre operator, get in touch to talk to one of our experts.