Why I Moved to a Green Hosting Service

Disclaimer: My research was comprehensive but not unlimited. Other “green” hosting options are surely available. I only considered U.S. companies. Also, there are affiliate links for AISO.net in this article.

GreenServerRoomA few months ago, my contract for hosting The Mindful Consumer and my other blog, The Geo Factor, came up for renewal. Because I had done some research around green data centers for my professional work, I knew that data centers have options for their energy sources. So I began to investigate the Web site and blog hosting companies that independent businesses and bloggers use, which all of course use their own data centers or outsource to others.

Paying attention to the sustainability practices of the technologies used to convey my messages seems apropos. I figured that others touting environmentalism and sustainable living would share my attitude, so my first inclination was to find green hosting service companies by looking at which hosting companies the other green bloggers use.

logo_epagppartnerUnfortunately, my run through that sustainable living neighborhood yielded few who were using hosting companies generally considered green. Most sites say nothing about their sustainability practices or energy usage policies. So I used WhoIsHostingThis to check several of the big environmental organizations and green bloggers. Some use Amazon Web services, which uses some renewable sources. Several sites appear to use Rackspace Hosting, which doesn’t mention sustainable practices on its Web site, but I dug around to find that its parent Rackspace claims to use 35% renewables.

Such lack of attention amongst the environmental community to its hosting choices is troubling. These organizations and their members are doing important work to improve sustainability and help the earth. So why not pay attention to who is hosting their Web sites? By some estimates cloud computing alone is consuming 1-2 percent of the world’s electricity resources. Others estimate that information technology-related emissions are approximately 2 percent of global emissions, equal to emissions from the global aviation sector. Perhaps the smaller “green” hosting companies can’t support the larger sites. Maybe the organizations did think through the decision, but aren’t communicating their reasons publically. There ought to be clear statements from green bloggers and environmental organizations about their hosting providers, not buried on an obscure CSR page.

PIA03149To end my own hypocrisy, I decided to switch to a hosting provider that like me considers sustainability important. First, I looked into my hosting company at the time, Westhost. I had used Westhost for years, and its services were adequate for my needs. However, there’s no commitment to sustainability through any statement of policy or use of renewable energy. When I asked its support group, they pointed me to its server company, which didn’t mention sustainability. It was time to investigate alternatives.

I found 10 hosting companies that touted their sustainable practices with options oriented to a low-volume user like me. But not all are created equal. Sustainable hosting comes in multiple levels in which the hosting company:

  1. Claims sustainable practices such as recycling and encouraging employee telecommuting. One provider touts that it plants trees.
  2. Claims to purchase and use servers with the best-available energy efficiencies.
  3. Purchases renewable energy credits to offset use of standard energy sources.
  4. Uses renewable energy.

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Only one amongst those I found, AISO.net, actually uses renewable energy. While the renewable energy credits are better than nothing, I decided to support direct use of renewable energy. AISO.net stands distinct from the other providers I found. Its on-site solar panels in Menifee, California power the data center and office. Backup generators use the cleaner propane fuel instead of diesel. AISO.net also uses windows and solar tubes for natural lighting. To maintain temperature, its building is painted white and its cooling system uses latent cooling rather than traditional refrigeration. Another difference is its use of wireless Internet backbones rather than cables, eliminating the digging necessary to add more feeds or bandwidth. Inside, AISO.net uses a mini wind turbine in its ducting to charge batteries. Lastly, the company building has a green roof and rainwater collection system.

There are other factors to consider in selecting a hosting plan, including bandwidth and disk space limits, number of domains and databases allowed, and price. The importance of those variables differs based on your site.

Frankly, no other hosting provider seems to approach the sustainable practices of AISO.net. I worried about support from what looks like a relatively small company. Surely, I thought, I would run into support challenges during the transition but decided they were worth the risk.

So I selected my hosting plan and started the transition from Westhost. There were issues moving my two blogs off Westhost and onto AISO.net. Those issues were the result of me not completely understanding the process and doing some things out of order. AISO.net support people helped me navigate through all of the issues and were very patient with my limited technical knowledge. My timing of transition was around the holidays, yet the support people were always responsive; I heard back usually within hours.

For its part, the Westhost people were also supportive, but its documentation about leaving its service and moving the data elsewhere was non-existent. Of course I can’t yet report on AISO.net’s reliability and ongoing service but based on my installation experiences, expect good things.

AISO-green-data-center1-300x224Finding a “green” hosting service was surprisingly difficult. This a time when climate change is in the news daily, and environmental groups and bloggers are being heard more than ever. Sadly, the community seems behind in its hosting selections. Fortunately, I was able to move my two blogs easily to a hosting provider that aligns with our mindful consumption practices – AISO.net.

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