Part two of the money saving tips, based on my BETT 2010 presentation

Yesterday, I covered saving money by server virtualisation. Today, let’s go outside of the server room and consider all of the computers right around you school. With the rapid growth in the number of computers (an average secondary school has more than 300 according the recent research) has also come a rapid growth in the electricity bills associated with them. However, that’s often invisible to the ICT team in the school, because the energy bills come from some other budget in the school, not from the ICT budget (I can imagine a few of you saying “Phew!” at this point)

But what about making some changes to reduce the energy usage – because not only would it help your overall school budget – and perhaps use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that an investment in parts of your ICT budget can save significant amounts of school budget.

The tip is to use upgrade your workstations to a later version of Windows – if you upgrade to Windows 7, you will find that you can typically save between £23 and £46 per computer per year. So an ‘average’ secondary school is going to save up to £10,000 a year, and a primary school up to £3,000.

The reason is that within Windows 7 the standard configuration of Windows is set to use the power saving features more often, and especially during periods of low or non-activity. For example, Windows 7 makes more use of:

  • Switching off the display after inactivity, reducing the monitor power usage
  • Using Sleep mode, to put the PC into an extremely low-power mode, but with rapid restart
  • Using Hibernate mode, to put the PC into a zero-power mode, with rapid restart

And within Windows 7 it is easier to manage this across your whole set of PCs at once – as a network manager, you can make a Group Policy change on power settings (eg changing how many minutes of inactivity to allow before switching off the display) to every machine in the school with one setting change. In Windows XP you may have to visit every single machine to make a change.

Dave Coleman at Twynham SchoolDave Coleman, Network Manager at Twynham School, has worked to minimise the electricity bills in his school using Windows 7, and is potentially going to save this promises to pay back the decision to upgrade very quickly. In Dave’s case, he found out the energy usage of his PCs and monitors from a bit of Internet searching, but perhaps an easier way is to pop into B&Q or Homebase and pick up a power monitor plug. They typically cost a tenner, and if you plug it into the wall, and plug your computer and/or monitor into it, you can very quickly see how much money they cost to run on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. A couple of days of research should help you to estimate your potential savings.

You can read a lot more about this in the PC Pro report from 2007, when the power saving settings were first introduced in Windows Vista. And the report will help you to work out your own power savings in your school.

After all, if you can go to your head teacher and explain that a software upgrade could save you more money in the first year than it will cost, it’s a pretty compelling case!