What Is Green Web Hosting?

There is little doubt that green is the new black, especially in tech circles. Everyone wants to be as environmentally friendly as possible and that includes web hosts.

Web hosts are some of the largest energy consumers and biggest polluters in the tech word. Hundreds, if not thousands of high-end servers left on 24/7 in a climate controlled datacenter is not a picture of environmental consciousness.

As a result of this, many Web hosts have begun very public green initiatives. Dreamhost has a long standing one, Hostgator has a similar initiative and HostPapa proudly touts themselves as a green host.

There are even entire hosting companies built around the idea of providing green Web hosting. This includes Sustainable Websites and Super Green Hosting.

But what does “green” hosting mean, and is it any different than regular hosting? The answer depends on how you look at it.

Defining Green

Every green hosting initiative is different. However, they all focus on reducing or eliminating the carbon footprint of a host and most plans focus on two steps:

  1. Energy Conservation: Most green hosts use energy-efficient servers and networks to reduce power consumption, often by as much as 20% or more. They also often focus on more efficient lighting, climate control and other power drains to keep power use down.
  2. Offsets: For the power use that can not be eliminated via reduction, most green hosting companies attempt to offset their carbon footprint by participating or buying into projects that are designed to eliminate carbon such as planting trees, generating wind power, etc.

For example, Hostgator and Dreamhost worked to reduce power consumption but also purchase Renewable Energy Credits, better known as offsets. This is where companies invest in renewable energy elsewhere since clean energy is not available at home.

Super Green Hosting, on the other hand, is involved in tree planting projects that are aimed at eliminating the carbon dioxide that the company puts out.

Every green hosting plan is different and it is important to check out the plan of the individual company you are looking at before registering.

Advice When Buying Green

If you are looking at purchasing green hosting, here are some tips to follow to make sure you get a host that is both truly green and truly useful.

  1. Read Their Policy Carefully: It’s not enough to see that a host is claiming to be green, read their policy, understand what they are doing and make sure that you are satisfied with it.
  2. Look for Certifications: Check to see which certifications the company has. There are many services that provide such certification so it pays to research the certifiers as well to make sure they are reputable.
  3. Do Your Part: Remember, the more sites hosted on a single server, the more energy efficient it will be. If you are truly interested in being green, choose accordingly.
  4. It Has to Be a Host Too: A green host that doesn’t keep the lights on is useless. Always check out a host to make sure it is reliable and has the features, limits that you need.
  5. Don’t Pay More: Green hosting, if done right, should not cost the consumer significantly more than non-green hosting. The reason is that the major costs of the host aren’t the offsets or electricity, but the people and the equipment. Furthermore, if they are conserving correctly, the host should be saving money or, at the very least, only spending a little bit more.

In short, it is important to do more than just look for a “Green Hosting” badge and actually check out what the host is doing and whether it is the right host for you.

Being green is good, but you have to be smart about it.

Bottom Line

There is no doubt that green hosting is a major new trend among Web hosts large and small, however, it is also a trend that needs to be watched closely.

While protecting the environment is a good thing and the hosting industry is definitely on the front lines in that fight, it is too easy to slap a green badge on your site and not much else.

Green hosting only works if consumers are smart about where they buy and why. So, if this is a feature you’re looking for, take a moment to educate yourself and make sure that you work with a host that truly is green, not just one wearing makeup.

Update 2015: We have gathered a list of hosting providers that offer green web hosting – you can compare by features, price and more.

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