Cost-Cutting Through Green IT Security: Real or Myth?
Some say the concept of green IT security is a stretch, but others see a real opportunity to cut costs as well as carbon emissions. (Part two in a series: How to Manage Security in a Recession)
By Bill Brenner , Senior Editor
June 25, 2008 —
About this series:
Smaller staff. Deflated security budgets. In-store thievery. When economic times are tough, these are the things security pros must contend with. In this ongoing series, CSOonline looks at ways to ensure the best security possible during a recession.
John Petrie likes the idea of low-cost security as much as the next guy. But while some see green technology as a way to achieve that goal while also helping the environment, Petrie has his doubts.
"You can gain some cost savings with an over-arching green strategy and then take advantage of investments that can achieve green security. But by itself, green security would fail," says Petrie, CISO of San Antonio-based Harland Clarke, a financial services firm with more than 5,000 employees and multiple locations. The problem, he says, is that companies with centralized security programs already make the efficient use of existing people, processes and technology.
Richard Stiennon, CEO of managed security services firm Seccom Global, says one can argue that unified threat management (UTM) appliances are green because they reduce the need for multiple power-consuming boxes, but that doesn't mean the technology is the best security fit for everyone. "While power and heat saving may be something enterprises start to push vendors on, the primary requirement for security devices - blocking threats - will always take precedence," he says.
Nevertheless, a growing number of security pros are looking into the cost-saving benefits of green security in this time of economic uncertainty. Helping the environment is just a bonus, and those who have explored the idea of green security have found they can maintain their defenses just as well with a smaller carbon footprint.
"Going green is no longer optional from a business vantage point," says Joseph Guarino, CEO and senior consultant for Boston-based Evolutionary IT, which specializes in security tools and management. "If you embrace that idea in your future plans, you will reduce your costs while saving the planet."
Cut air travel, cut emissions
Security professionals say green security is about more than shrinking the number of boxes that suck up power and expand a company's carbon footprint.
For Richard Bejtlich, director of incident response at General Electric, the biggest green security challenge is in how the company moves people around. Incident response investigations often require people to fly to offices spread across the country. But travel can be expensive and the environment certainly doesn't benefit from the jet fuel that's burned in the process.
Bejtlich's solution is to find more remote ways for employees to conduct incident response.