Computer Power Management Software

Computer power management, Electronics and office equipment

The amount of energy that a single computer wastes while remaining in the full-power “on” state may seem pretty small in the overall scheme of things, but it quickly adds up. For a corporation with hundreds or thousands of workstations operating on a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN), that wasted energy translates to thousands of dollars in unnecessary electricity expenditures each year.

Why is this important?

Despite the fact that most of the personal computers (PCs) operating in office settings in North America have the capability to shift into a low-power state after a specified period of inactivity, not all of them actually do so. When computer power management is enabled, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates energy savings of roughly 50% and annual cost savings of $25 to $75 per computer. Most computers ship with these settings enabled, but it’s important to make sure your IT department is aware whether employees are opting to disable these settings. If so, IT can either adjust power management to be less aggressive or prevent individual access to these settings. So why don’t all computer users take advantage of power management settings? There are a variety of reasons. Individual workers may not even be aware that these settings exist, or they may not care about saving a small amount of energy for their employer. Another contributor is the fact that IT staff rarely have any incentive to implement energy-saving policies. Without a directive from management, IT staffers are unlikely to enable power management settings when deploying new computers, and they’re even less likely to ensure that individual employees maintain those settings.

There are a number of software products with the common goal of simplifying the implementation of power management policies across large numbers of networked PCs. The amount of energy savings these products can provide depends upon the power draw of the particular computers and monitors in use, how the PCs are being used, and the aggressiveness of the power management settings that are implemented.

What are the options?

There are three approaches to harnessing energy savings via adjustments to power management settings of networked PCs:

  • Ensure that the existing PC power management capabilities are enabled
  • Have the IT department develop and deploy login scripts that control power management settings
  • Use third-party software to establish and implement a computer power management policy across the company LAN or WAN

If your business uses a Windows domain–based network, you can ask your network administrator or IT staff to develop and deploy group policy objects or login scripts that control power management settings at the server level. This approach has the advantage of being an enforceable savings standard that computer users can’t tamper with, and it offers IT staff the flexibility to create groups of users with similar computing habits to accommodate different operating needs. If implemented with care, group policy objects and login scripts can be a cost-effective strategy because they ensure that power management settings will be enabled and maintained at the appropriate level for each user without the need to purchase additional software. If network administrators need help creating group policy objects, the EPA offers a free tool, EZ GPO, to assist them.

If your business has multiple types of hardware and operating systems on the same network, consider purchasing a computer power management software solution. This software is installed on individual machines and is centrally controlled by the IT staff via the internet or the company network. Depending on the program used, IT staff can manually wake up computers for maintenance, monitor energy consumption and savings, and apply different settings to different groups of computers. These programs generally run from $10 to $20 per computer and are often available at discounted rates for bulk purchases. With average annual savings ranging from $25 to $75 per machine, the payback period is typically less than a year for a desktop computer. Because the software is sold on a per-computer licensing basis, it’s roughly as cost-effective in a small business as it is in a large corporation. And although maintaining this software does require some time commitments on the part of a network administrator, it’s well within the means of even modestly sized organizations. As a rule, if a company is large enough to have at least one designated IT staffer, it’s probably large enough to consider computer power management software as a means of cutting costs.

How to make the best choice

Install smart power strips related to PC management Embertec has an advanced power strip (APS), the Embertec Emberstrip 8PC+, that automatically powers off PC environments when they’re wasting energy. The Embertec APS can power off peripheral equipment like monitors, printers, and scanners, when a computer isn’t actively using these appliances or when a computer is in standby mode.

Choose software that allows you to estimate energy savings and payback You need to collect information about all of the PCs on the network to determine what the best power management strategy is before you begin an implementation. Some software packages can track the time each computer spends in each operating mode—active, low power, hibernate, or off—and use this data to estimate the energy savings that would result from certain policies. The reported data can also help the administrator accurately determine energy savings after a policy has been implemented.

Choose software that permits different settings for different users A one-size-fits-all approach to PC power management will rarely be successful because employees have differing work schedules and ways of using their computers. Ignoring this fact and trying to implement a policy that works for everyone will either be so lenient that it leaves a lot of potential energy savings on the table, or it will be unduly restrictive for some users, negatively affecting their productivity and leaving them frustrated.

Some power management software packages allow the network administrator to define multiple groups of workstations and to establish different power management settings for each group. For example, one group might consist of workers who are at their PCs continuously on a regular nine-to-five schedule. Another group could include factory workers who need to intermittently monitor a production process that runs three shifts per day; and a third group could include staff who monitor real-time data on PC screens but infrequently use the keyboard or mouse. And if the organization wishes to allow it, another profile could be established for specific employees who would be permitted to opt out of the PC energy-savings program.

Choose software that identifies the hardware and operating system used at each workstation This information is critical for determining groups of similar machines and identifying machines for which power management is inappropriate.

Choose software that can shut computers down In addition to controlling the amount of idle time after which PCs will enter a low-power state, some software packages can implement a turnoff schedule. In most cases, the shutdown procedure is terminated if any application running on a computer offers an “unsaved data” prompt.

Consider wake-on-LAN capability This feature can bring a networked computer into the active state from the off state. Wake-on-LAN capability is built into most computers, and some software takes advantage of it. Because wake-on-LAN gives network administrators access to any computer at any time, it overcomes one of the most common obstacles to using power management software: the need to install software patches and updates on networked computers when they’re not in use.

Who are the manufacturers?

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