Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Planting the Digital Seed

First things first. As a grassroots effort, we know we will be heavily dependent on www.futureweathermovie.com as a hub for our production over the next few years. So Jenny and I set out to see if it would be possible to host our website on a server that was powered by solar and/or wind energy. Since servers run 24/7/365, it seemed like the most energy efficent way to go. However, we also didn't want to spend too much time researching it. Time is pretty much all we have to spend right now, so we have to be thrifty.

When typing "solar powered web hosting" into Google, you will be inundated with several options for green hosts. But when you dig a little you'll find mention of green certificates on most of them, rather than actual wind or solar energy. Not knowing what that meant, I did another search. Green certificates, or green tags, are actually called, by the government, renewable energy certificates. According to the Department of Energy, these certificates "represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects and are sold separate from commodity electricity." Basically, it allows you to invest in energy and offset your own consumption by having the same amount put back into the power grid, just most likely not in your own location (as a small aside, if you're based out of Philadelphia like we are, you can invest in wind energy through your monthly PECO bill for as little as $2.54 a month.

As important as investing in new energy is, it was hard for both Jenny and I to fully commit to one of these companies since the energy cost seemed hidden. Luckily, I stumbled across a very helpful website: www.hostitgreen.com. No more Google searches! All you need to do is sign up for their mailing list and you'll receive a list of all the reputable green web hosting sites. A few days later, they'll even send another email, this one with a list of green web designers, marketers and other services. Very cool and very helpful. And upon comparing prices for green servers to those of normal servers, the differences in price are pretty slight. regular hosting services start at around $5.95, while alternatives start at around $7.95. You may get more space with a normal powered web host, but most likely won't need it.

Through the Host It Green list, we were lucky enough to stumble across a hosting service based out of England called Ecological Hosting. Servers are 100% percent solar powered and run by an affable bloke name Jamie and his partner, Sue. His plans are very competitively priced (though his listings are in pounds, not dollars). But the main selling point for Jenny and I is that it's a small, conscientious family run business. When you call, Jamie picks up the phone. He and his wife also run their home office as sustainably as possible. They don’t print unless they have to and when they do, it’s on recycled paper. They also reuse all electronics in different capacities instead of just throwing them out. Very cool. You can read more about them here.

Talking with Jamie we learned that his server was run out of Calfornia by a company called AISO (Affordable Internet Services Online).The AISO data center is covered on two sides by a total of 120 solar panels. They take the power from the panels, transfer it from DC to AC, then store it in batteries which they then use to power their center. They are developing a green roof, which is made of soil and drought resistant plants, which will lower the overall temperature of the building and cut down energy use (science is crazy!). AISO also offer solar-powered hosting plans, so don’t hesitate to check them out too!

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