What Ever Happened to Green Web Hosting?

by Tori Johnson on June 21, 2011

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Wind TurbinesDepending on what you call “green web hosting,” such services have been available for about ten years and reached what seemed to be their zenith somewhere around 2007. (One provider we tried to contact six months ago for a sales inquiry never got back to us and didn’t generate an automatic reply.)

But compared to the gains in traditional web hosting (i.e. most web hosting), this trend never really established itself – at least not as the prime hosting solution for big business or reams of people.

Lots of companies still host (usually) small portions of their enterprise on green hosting solutions. But if there is a major company that hosts 100% green (remember, we said major), we have yet to hear of it. If wrong, may comments rain down upon us at the end of this post…

…Before we get too into a reason or two green web hosting is still waiting for takeoff, a quick double-check of what we’re talking about here:

By definition…

For all purposes, a green web hosting company is generally regarded as any hosting  company that offers web hosting services powered – directly or indirectly (and there’s the catch) – by renewable or otherwise-universally-Earth-friendly power.

Types:

  • The most common way companies offer this service is – in a roundabout way – purchasing carbon credits that offset the damage done by fossil-fuel-based power through which the green energy company actually gets its power.
  • The second most-common type of green web provider is one that buys power generated by green means (solar, wind, and sometimes geothermal) and also buys power from a traditional (coal-fired, gas, nuclear, etc…) source of energy as a backup. While whole power grids generally can’t switch seamlessly between the two (yet), a company powering a building full of web servers can do this without missing a beat.
  • Finally, there are a select few companies that will actually sell you web hosting services run off servers that are 100%, everyday, powered by one or a combination of green energies.

When will it be reliable?

Solar PanelsAs long as you’re not insistent on going totally, directly green with your web hosting, there are more than a few such green companies around now that were there five years ago.

The sticky point with running anything off many renewables is that energy storage technology hasn’t yet advanced enough to provide a reliable backup reserve. For example, solar only runs when it’s sunny, and wind only runs when it’s windy.

Other helpful ways to check if a green energy provider has what it takes to host your web presence:

  • Does it guarantee at least 99.99% uptime?
  • Does it legitimately count several major high-profile companies as clients?
  • Are customer service/sales staff prompt and transparent?
  • Guarantee in writing your service will be seamlessly transferred to a backup system if something goes awry.
  • Guarantee in writing your service will be seamlessly transferred to a backup company if the company closes down or changes hands.

Many people are scared of relying on web hosts billing themselves as green, and in some cases, they should be. But if it’s your mission – for reasons of morals, investment in the future, or publicity – it is likely such companies will continue to be around.

In the future, advancements in storage (i.e. battery) technology could lead to solar and wind technology being reliable enough to directly tap for consistent power, whether the wind blows or the sun shines.

Until then, green energy hosting as a solution you’ll be happy with largely depends on the provider and your tolerance for the risks (or optics of risks) associated with going with a business model that’s still in its infancy.

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