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Less power consumption

Save energy while on the phone

IP telephony is gaining ground. In Switzerland, there are more connections each year and this trend shows no signs of stopping. This technology, also known as Voice over IP (VoIP) seems to have a bright future. Firstly, it offers the user some obvious advantages – such as free calling between different company locations and high flexibility in terms of the number of connections and phone lines. Secondly, IP telephony is also promising because it received a good environmental performance evaluation. The electrical installation industry has opened up another environmentally friendly business segment. 

Fewer devices, lower power consumption

IP telephony relies on virtual phone systems. The end user no longer needs a fixed telephone system, but instead, only an internet connection. On-site installations are therefore unnecessary. Thanks to "softphones" (computer programs), existing equipment like computers, laptops and smartphones can be used directly for making calls. This reduces power consumption, as there is no need for additional IP phones in the office. The user notices no difference in terms of functionality: softphones offer all the usual features such as call diversion or call forwarding. Only the feeling is different when you use a softphone to speak directly to your computer, or make phone calls with a headset. Those who would rather make calls with a physical phone, can still do so with IP-based telephony. Special telephone handsets can be attached to the virtual equipment.

Better utilisation of data centres

You lose some potential for savings by choosing physical phones, but even these devices are now very energy-efficient. It is worth comparing the different providers. Often, it's possible to connect equipment from different manufacturers to the telephone system. Ideally, you should opt for the more energy-efficient products. But ultimately the devices only contribute a small part to the environmental-friendliness of VoIP. A much more important factor is that the virtual telephone systems are hosted in large data centres. Large data centres consume per unit less power than small, local servers located at the company. This effect is evident in all internet-based services: according to a study by Accenture, cloud computing services, for example, are between 20 and 90 percent climate-friendlier than the user's own server (source). The rule of thumb is: the fewer employees working in a company, the more CO can be saved with cloud computing, or in this case with VoIP. Since different users share the server, large data centres are much better utilised and are ultimately more efficient.

Improved energy efficiency

Data centres that operate with 100 percent renewable energy have an even better energy balance. An example of this is the Zurich Herdern data centre, where Swisscom operates their VoIP systems. A new form of cooling is also being used in this data centre: a lot of energy is saved because only the devices are cooled and not the whole room. This is reflected in the power usage effectiveness (PUE) coefficient, which measures the energy efficiency of data centres. The lower the PUE, the better. The data centre in Herdern achieved a PUE of 1.55. Average data centres usually score around 2.0. In addition, the data centre has a solar panel on the roof and waste heat is fed into a district heating network.

This example shows clearly why virtual servers are ultimately often more energy efficient. In addition to the better utilisation, it's more worthwhile for large data centres to invest in energy efficiency than companies with small servers. This trend is set to continue, thanks to technologies like Voice over IP. So it might be worthwhile for the electrical installation industry to jump on the VoIP and cloud computing train.