The ROI of PC power management

A little math reveals that power-management software is a smart investment

The green benefits of PC power management may have their allure, but given the state of the economy, I can't blame any IT manager for putting cost considerations first.

Therein lies the beauty of PC power management, though: I'm quite convinced the easy-to-calculate ROI makes it a no-brainer.

For those of you not in the know, PC power management software enables an IT admin to set all users' PCs and monitors to power down after a predetermined set of time -- but power up quickly when they're needed during the work day. Those solutions that include wake-on LAN capabilities can awaken machines automatically for patching or other remote maintenance, meaning those tasks can be easily completed after hours and the systems can still get their rest.

First, consider the costs of not powering down PCs when they're not in use. I've seen figures ranging from $25 to $75 for a computer/monitor combo. Why the range? I suppose it depends on what model computer and monitor you're running (LCDs use far less power than CRTs), as well as how much use your systems get in a day. If they go long spells without being touched, then there's more money to be saved from powering them down.

But let's just go with the low-end figure and say it costs you $25 to power each desktop and monitor in your organization when they're not in use.

Now let's look at the costs of software to power down PCs. I spoke with the CEO of Autonomic Software, Tony Gigliotti, today. His company offers its ANSA suites, which uses an intelligent agent for such tasks as vulnerability management, asset management, and, in line with the subject at hand, PC power management. He told me that Autonomic's Software costs around $33 per license for the first year, then $10 per license per year after that. (Notably, Autonomic isn't the only player in this space; BigFix, Verdiem Surveyor, KACE KBOX, and 1E NightWatchmanoffers offer competing solutions.)

So let’s do a little math. Say you have 500 computers at your organization, and you decide to invest in some PC power management software. If it's around $33 per license, you're looking to pay $16,500 for the software. But you're also going to be making back $25 (which, again, is a low-end estimate) per computer that year thanks to energy savings. That would mean $12,500 in savings for the first year.

Over two years, though, you'd make your money back. How so? Well, you're paying $10 per license, which totals $5,000 -- but you're saving another $12,500 (assuming power costs remain unchanged). So in two years, you'll have spent $21,500, but you'll have saved $25,000. Voila. Money in the bank.

The deal can becomes even sweeter if you happen to be served by a utility that offers rebates for purchasing PC power management licenses. PG&E, which serves Northern California, is one such utility. It offers a $15 rebate for each PC power management software license your purchase, according to Gigliotti.

Factor that into your equation, and the deal becomes even sweeter. After the rebate, you're paying a net of around $18 per license the first year, which for 500 PCs, which totals $9,000. You're saving the aforementioned $12,500 for the first year on energy costs. So in year one, you can save $3,500. The savings increase from there.

Also notable, most of the products I've mentioned don't just do PC power management; they offer other value through patch and configuration management, a point worth considering as you contemplate making the investment.

Finally, I'd be remiss in not noting, though, that the green benefit is still there. According to Gigliotti, powering down PCs can spare the air 1.6 tons of CO2 per desktop per year.

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