Almost all digital services we use rely on a “stack” of different technologies working together. So, if you operate a digital service yourself, one way to make it sustainable is to “green your stack” – to look at the services you use, and see how green each provider is, and see what alternatives exist if they aren’t moving as fast as you want to be on climate.
We maintain a directory of green providers, and when they sign up with us, we ask them to list what they offer to make it easier for you to find these green alternatives you might need.
See below for our definitions, with examples.
This is a growing list that we intend to expand over time, allow for folks to filter based on specific services they offer. If there is something you thinking is missing that you provide or use, you can add to it via our service registration form.
Shared hosting for websites
Shared hosting for websites is the kind of entry level hosting you might get where you pay between 1-20 EUR or USD per month, in return for the ability to run a websites on a shared server. You typically manage them through a control a panel like cpanel, and in some cases you can run a database.
Examples: Green Geeks Web Hosting
Virtual private servers
Virtual private servers are virtual machines where a set amount of resources like hard drive space, memory of virtual CPUs are allocated to you. You often are free to install your choice of operating system. You usually have more control than with shared hosting, in exchange for managing more of the complexity yourself.
With physical servers, you rent a physical machine, and have all of its resources dedicated to you. All the RAM, the network capacity and any computing power is yours, and is not shared with any other customers. In return, you are not shielded from the complexities of working with hardware, like when a disk drive fails and so on.
Finally, if you already have your own servers, rather than paying for compute power from servers that someone else owns, you pay might for use of a building to put them in, instead. Someone else keeps your servers stored securely, and supplied with power, and connectivity, but you’re responsible for sourcing all your hardware.
While historically storage was bundled with servers that you might rent, dedicated storage services, where you pay per gigabyte for the storage are increasingly popular now. They mostly fall into two main foundational categories, block storage and object storage, upon which other user facing services are frequently offered.
The simplest way to think about block storage is to think about having a virtual disk, where you pay for a certain amount of storage capacity, then treat like a regular disk, opening and saving files and writing them to a filing system. In both cases, you don’t directly write a file to disk – you write it to a block device, which itself takes care of writing to the disk. When you pay for a block storage service, you are paying for the ability to have a disk of almost any size, and for the service to take care of hardware failures for you.
The other second form of storage is object storage. Here, most of the time, rather than knowing ahead of time how much storage you need and paying to have a disk large enough to hold everything you need, you upload files without needing to specify in advance how much space you need, and just pay for the storage it takes up.
Like the block storage service, you are shielded from hardware failures, but the downside is that you aren’t really using a filing system like you are on a laptop, and software needs to be specially written to this kind of storage.
Content Delivery Networks
Content delivery networks take copies of files, and copy them to multiple servers around the world, to make them more available to users. This might make it faster to download content, or mean that a site can stay up, even if the original server goes down.
Examples: Cloudflare Content Delivery Network
Application hosting and Software as a service
Rather than using the foundational services listed above directly, you might choose to use software services that are themselves built on them instead. These come in a range of categories, but they’re often referred to as X as a service, where X is a particular piece of software you might otherwise run yourself.
This is an incomplete list, of the kinds of services available. If you provide something you think should be listed here, please let us know via our service registration form.
Platform as a Service
We use the term “containers as a service” to refer to services that help you manage the life cycle of software, usually in the form of portable format called containers. In this field it’s increasingly common to see providers who manage installations of large, open source projects like Kubernetes on your behalf – they take care of the platform, and you take care of the software for a specific application. In other scenarios,
Managed WordPress Hosting / WordPress as a Service
Managed WordPress hosting covers hosting where you pay to have a WordPress instance run for you, and backups of data to be handled, but you are not responsible for maintaining it yourself. If it helps you can think of this as “WordPress as a service” – you pay for someone else to provide a managed WordPress that you use to reach users.
Sustainability analytics as a service
If you run some digital services already, there are ways you can instrument them to disclose carbon emissions figures in ways you can act upon. These often rely on usage or billing data, and are typically designed to be integrated into the workflow of making and running your own digital service.
Datacenter design and build
The skills and know-how required to make and run datacentres sustainably are fairly difficult to find, and relatively few organisations have this information in-house. If you run servers on-premises, specialists can help you understand how to green existing datacentres, or how to find the right new premises.
Examples – Carbon3IT
Digital Product Design and Development
If you operate an existing digital service, but you don’t have the capabilities in-house to perform an sustainability audit, or you’ve run one but you don’t have the capacity to make the changes yourself, it’s not uncommon to hire specialists to help train existing teams, or make the required changes.
Sustainability strategy consulting for digital services
In some cases, before you can get significant buy in from stakeholders, you’ll need help developing a convincing digital sustainability strategy. Firms that offer that do this help you create a compelling business case, to unlock the resources you’ll need to green the digital services you provide.