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Technologies That Save You Some ‘Green’

Eight technologies that help preserve the environment while preserving your budget: Web conferencing, electronic documents, LCD monitors, thin clients, blade servers, fuel cells, autonomic computing, and grid computing.

It’s a win-win proposition: save money, save the planet. Companies today are discovering many ways to better balance energy consumption, waste disposal, employee productivity and morale, and their budgetary concerns. Here’s our sampling of green technologies that can save you some “green,” too; share your own suggestions at Editors@cfo.com.

Web Conferencing: More Face Time

Without leaving his office in San Antonio, David Alexander can safely say that Web conferencing lets him “meet and see — face-to-face — more of my customers and the other people I work with than I ever did before.” Adds Alexander, a telecom and multimedia analyst at technology research firm Frost & Sullivan, “It’s definitely a replacement for business travel” — especially when soaring fuel costs make it so expensive to shuttle employees to meetings, seminars, presentations, and training sessions.

If you haven’t kept up with Web-conferencing technology — like NetMeeting from Microsoft or eBoardroom Suite from eBoardroom — over the past several years, you might be surprised to find that it’s much more than the Internet equivalent of two-way TV. Not only can users see and hear the moderator and other participants, often they can also take advantage of support services such as document and program sharing, whiteboards, polling, and instant messaging. Perhaps best of all, many Web-conferencing products record the meeting and allow users to play it back at their convenience. “Paper notes go only so far,” says Alexander. “With Web conferences, you can go back and see what you missed.”

Add a personal computer with a $50 camera and a broadband Internet connection, and you have the building blocks for what’s become a $600 million industry, notes Alexander. Not only can Web-conferencing technology improve employee productivity, it may also boost morale by reducing the time that employees spend on the road — that is, my helping them to feel more productive, too. Alexander has seen proof of the technology’s relationship-building ability in his own work; it adds a personal touch, he says, “that’s almost as good as sitting across the table from someone.”

Electronic Documents: The ”Less Paper” Office

Printed documents remain popular because they make good use of a straightforward technology — albeit an old one — that allows information to be easily delivered, shared, and viewed. “Paper itself provides a unique user interface,” says Robert Bauer, chief technology officer for Xerox Global Services in Palo Alto, California. “People still like to print out very long emails, for example, because they’re just too hard to deal with on the screen, too hard to use.” It’s little surprise that although the promise of the “paperless office” has been around for at least 20 years, the paper still keeps piling up.

The “less paper office,” however, is a worthwhile goal for any organization. The casual creation and sharing of printed documents may never be eliminated — and shouldn’t be, if such a change would hamstring productivity — businesses can move archival files, such as contracts and other formal documents, into electronic formats. Even a modest step in this direction can trim your paper and filing costs, cut waste, and even reduce recyclables. “Although recycling is a good thing,” notes Bauer, “that takes energy, too.”

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