Clean Cloud: The Small Changes That Could Make a Huge Difference

The post-pandemic reliance on digital has brought back incredible opportunities to reduce the world’s carbon footprint, but there are factors that often go overlooked. Gav Winter of RapidSpike looks at the role that data centres and webmasters have to play.

How would you feel if you knew that the image you innocuously uploaded to social media is responsible for 2% of the world’s energy consumption? Of course, that’s an extrapolation of the truth, but it’s easy to overlook the carbon footprint of entities that have no physical presence – such as data.

In today’s digital world, the demand for images, videos and text is putting an incredible strain on the environment. Data centres, while pivotal to economic success, take up one-fiftieth of all energy consumption around the world.

Much of this comes down to the ever-changing nature of the digital landscape itself. Video and image content is becoming ever more prolific, and customers want more, faster. When we consider that the average website costs 6g of CO2 – the equivalent of 12,000 miles driven in a car – we should remember that we all have a role to play.

The Benefits of Collaboration

The good news for CEOs is that they don’t have to make these changes alone. By collaborating with clean cloud data centres, they can immediately begin to reduce the carbon impact of their business websites.

This comes as the data sector begins to acknowledge the environmental effects of such high power demands. For example, DEFRA has now introduced its ICT Sustainability Strategy, which promotes a circular economy approach. This encourages an overall reduction in producing new goods, and rather reusing, reducing, sharing or recycling.

We can apply these principles to website design too – understanding the impacts that each facet has on carbon emissions. Collaboration, not only with green suppliers but with internal tech teams, can help us to lessen our impact in three key ways.

Reducing Consumption Through Smaller Page Sizes & Processing Times

As a general rule, the more complicated a website, the higher its power demands will be. While images and pixels are an essential part of web design – particularly in the world of ecommerce – they can be optimised.

Webmasters should optimise images to reduce file sizes and decrease page loading times. A “green speed” agenda can analyse website performance and look for delays. Even a 1-second delay can lead to a 7% decrease in conversions.

Likewise, JavaScript can wreak havoc with website speeds. Developers can performance tune scripts, or if working with third parties, should review them carefully.

Even a 1-second delay can lead to a 7% decrease in conversions.

Gav Winter
CEO, RapidSpike

Gav Winter, RapidSpike

Focusing on Quick Wins

Just as car manufacturers are always seeking ways to make fuel go further, webmasters should do the same with the power consumption of their sites. There are small changes we can make, many of which don’t necessarily need a developer.

One quick win would be to turn off all auto-playing videos, which can hinder the user experience. Another would be to switch from custom fonts (which are energy intensive) to standard web fonts.

Switching suppliers can also make a huge difference – moving from legacy local solutions to cloud-based. This will reduce transport in terms of networks and cables, while providing a secure alternative.

Testing Websites with Automation

The best CEOs collaborate with marketers to better understand their customers. With today’s technology, we can automate this research process, thanks to “synthetic monitoring”. This is essentially an automated tool which mimics the user journey a customer might take on-site.

Here, it can log any potential for barriers to conversion, such as slow page loading speeds. Likewise, it can also identify security issues. Webmasters should log all of these problems and use them to make decisions – such as optimising JavaScript.

Why Green Doesn’t Always Mean Go

At its core, the benefits of improving website performance see sustainability and customer service go hand in hand. A faster loading webpage means customers can get what they want quicker, with a lower carbon footprint.

But to be truly sustainable, we need to go beyond this. Switching to clean cloud data centres takes the physical energy toll out of data management. It’s important to find the right suppliers with sustainability at the forefront of their agenda.

Green should certainly mean go for website performance, but it should also signify greener practices.


Gav Winter
CEO, RapidSpike

Gav has been in the technology industry for over 20 years and is founder of The Test People, the Leeds based Technical Testing Consultancy, one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK and fastest growing in Yorkshire & the North East from 2013 to 2015. He won Yorkshire Overall & SME Director of the Year in 2014 and 2015, alongside multiple company awards like Deloitte Fast50, and the Sunday Times TechTrack100 before architecting a merger (£27 million) to create Ten10 in 2015, the UK’s largest independent testing consultancy. He is a non-exec director at Ten10. Now CEO of RapidSpike, he’s on a mission to help companies build cleaner, faster websites that users want to use.