How to build a carbon efficient and cost-efficient IT infrastructure

How to build a carbon efficient and cost-efficient IT infrastructure

Business leaders are under increased pressure to expand and enhance IT infrastructures. But with challenging sustainability regulations and rising energy costs, it’s essential to find a carbon efficient and cost-efficient approach. Our Sales Director for IT Infrastructure, Jeremy Isaacs, shares some confronting truths and specialist guidance.


Fuelled by data, digital technology is the engine of the modern world. We perceive it as clean. Smart. Progressive. But despite these benefits, it’s created a carbon footprint all its own.

As our reliance on technology grows, with more devices and bigger networks, businesses are guzzling high volumes of data and processing power. They rack up energy costs and carbon emissions.

This creates two unprecedented challenges, both concerned with cost…

1. How can I reduce the environmental cost of digital technology?

2. How can I reduce the actual cost of digital technology?

Luckily, both questions can be answered using similar methods. Let’s unpack the challenges and explore the potential ways forward.

Challenge #1: Building a carbon efficient infrastructure

The need to mitigate environmental costs occurs in addition to existing demands placed on IT infrastructure. These are performance, capacity, resiliency, agility, security, manageability, intelligence, and automation.

New sustainability, compliance, and regulation rules mean most businesses must develop a conscious awareness of carbon emissions and start working towards a better future.

There is also a prerequisite in many sectors for companies to commit to NetZero goals to build supply chain relationships. For instance, in September 2021, the UK Cabinet Office announced that all companies bidding for government contracts over £5 million need to commit to being carbon neutral by 2050 and be able to show their current carbon footprint.[1]

It may not be immediately apparent why this relates to IT Infrastructure. The ‘going paperless’ message and movement towards digital infrastructure has understandably been touted and consumed as the carbon-efficient and eco-savvy way to go. But did you know that for non-industrial organisations, data centres produce 25% of scope 2 carbon emissions?[2] These organisations are also huge consumers of energy, whether they operate in the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid environment.

Attempting to bypass environmental obligations by outsourcing to a cloud provider does not solve the issue. In fact, it is tantamount to greenwashing.

While better awareness of environmental impact is positive, it raises complexity for IT leaders tasked with setting targets for NetZero.

Challenge #2: Building a cost-efficient infrastructure

Amid rising energy prices, solving challenges of cost-efficiency is paramount to business success, longevity, and competitiveness.

Energy costs are hitting everyone, and businesses are no exception. Operating costs are rising, and businesses are collapsing at the highest rate since the financial crisis.

Putting the lens on IT, it is estimated that the annual energy bill for the data centre in a mid-sized company in the UK will increase over the next 5 years to approximately 1 million pounds due to rising energy prices. Running data centres and IT infrastructures inefficiently makes these costs prohibitive for many.

Finding the right solutions

I have included some techniques myself and my team use to help organisations find solutions; applied in the right way, they can help solve the carbon and the cost challenge.

Why do IT infrastructures become inefficient?

Many businesses, both enterprise and mid-market, have expensive systems, whether these exist on-premises, in the cloud, or comprise a hybrid infrastructure of the two.

These systems were often designed as a long-term investment – but nobody can predict the future.

Because of this, infrastructure frequently misaligns with the reactive nature of businesses. They might need to enter new markets, launch new products, respond to industry developments, and grow – often on a condensed timescale – using their existing resources. What can result is a “bolting on” of new features or services as and when they’re required. This usually happens when businesses attempt to support new ways of working and business models quickly.

The importance of proactivity over reactivity

Throughout the pandemic, transformation projects were put on hold. Many reactionary decisions were made to support new ways of working and integrate new business models. One example of this is the need for more remote working. Consequently, infrastructure increases in complexity and becomes difficult to manage, highly inefficient, and often expensive to serve. What’s needed is for IT Directors to proactively look at building an agile, intelligent infrastructure model.

Due to this current, reactionary “needs must” method of working, companies have complex and overprovisioned estates, which are energy and carbon inefficient. They also fall short on the other basic requirements of performance, capacity, resiliency, agility, security, manageability, intelligence, and automation.

Many businesses also run on-premises data centres stacked with functionality that isn’t necessary, all of which have a running cost attached.

Building a strategy for IT infrastructure

To solve this, businesses need to understand their infrastructure and explore how to optimise their existing resources. They can do this by utilising spare capacity on-premises and by turning off unnecessary cloud resources. These actions decrease both carbon generation and cost.

Practically, this means investigating which workloads, data and applications are running on-premises and in the cloud and migrating them back to the optimal place in terms of speed, performance, and cost.

The cloud might seem the obvious choice, but this process does not always mean moving everything to the cloud. It’s typically about building multiple clouds, including on-premises and cloud hyperscalers.

With choice comes complexity. Businesses need guidance in order to design a sustainable, cost-efficient, and agile infrastructure that will evolve to meet the challenging, dynamic environments in which their businesses operate while simultaneously and seamlessly integrating all elements into a single harmonious, easy-to-manage ecosystem. This is where Ricoh can help.

We’re also working with many of our customers to transition their on-premises set-up to an as-a-service model so that they can consume as and when needed rather than overprovision capacity. This new approach can also be more carbon efficient and help reduce power consumption.

Our four-step approach to IT infrastructure consultation

1. Assess

Using a bespoke process, we will investigate your infrastructure and what you have configured in your cloud and on-premises estate. We can also offer carbon and power assessments identifying areas for improved efficiency. This will help you understand your carbon output and better comply with regulations and requests for data. We will also compile a hardware and software license review covering version, end-of-life and future support dates, plus other licensing and subscription contracts.

Understanding your existing infrastructure and its energy impact point is an imperative catalyst for your progression.

2. Optimise

Whether on-premises or in the cloud, we’ll orchestrate and reconfigure assets you already have. We’ll model future requirements and understand opportunities to move workloads, reduce power and carbon, increase capacity, and improve performance.

3. Transform

Once you understand your starting point and have optimised your estate, Ricoh can explain and highlight the benefits of transformation. We demonstrate a return on investment in as little as 12 months by measuring carbon and power benefits. Ricoh navigates the plethora of options available to meet specific objectives, delivering and continuing to measure achievable outcomes.

4. Repurpose

We can provide a sustainable after-life for your infrastructure, repurposing as a priority before we consider recycling using environmentally friendly processes. Repurposing offers greater financial returns and delivers measurable benefits to carbon reduction.

Talk to us about your Cloud & IT infrastructure strategy

2023 will be a learning curve for businesses, with deepening economic challenges and ever-evolving compliance requirements. The demand for more flexible working methods and digital-first customer experience will also increase. Yet change presents an opportunity to establish a competitive advantage. Those who can extrapolate the opportunity from what appears to be a difficult trading environment will outperform the market.

As a trusted Cloud & Infrastructure partner, Ricoh can work with you to help you define the right approach between on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud. We can also help you identify any networking and security implications that need to be considered.

Our commitment to ESG has been a part of our DNA since our founding, and sustainability is embedded in everything we do. Learn more in our handy guide:

Click to read ESG Ricoh UK

Speak to one of our experts today. Contact our team to find out more.




Jeremy Isaacs

Area Specialist Sales Director, I.T. Services, Ricoh UK

Read all articles by Jeremy Isaacs