The thing that everyone forgets about printing and communications, says Meta Brophy, director of publishing operations at Consumer’s Union, New York City, is that it’s a data-driven business, and that data has to be powered by something. Many end users think that paper is the villain of the print industry, but it’s a recyclable and renewable resource — and has been since before it was ecochic.

Instead, electronic devices are the hidden energy hog of the business. Print and electronic data are inextricably linked, although this isn’t immediately apparent for many buyers. All communications have an electronic component—from ripping a VDP job to soft-proofing a business card. Even without the tremendous draw of printing equipment, enterprise IT can consume about 40 percent of a company’s total energy, some IT professionals say. As the electronic aspects of the printing industry grow in importance and number, sellers have an opportunity to position their companies as greener than the competition and ahead of the pack. One of the easiest ways to do this is by virtualizing some or all of your business practices, through cloud computing or gridsharing. In fact, you may already be doing this and not even know it.

The Next Big Thing
If you’ve used software as a service, or have outsourced basic business practices or data storage over the internet, you’ve begun to dip your toe in the waters of cloud computing and its more complex counterpart, gridsharing. This approach allows users to access computational power and storage space from third-party vendors online, which is the “cloud.” It’s a scalable technology, meaning it encompasses both very simple applications such as, PayPal and data storage and very complex ones like BitTorrent and Skype. Many gravitate to this approach because it’s a good way to save money on capital investments. But it’s also a green approach, because it centralizes the energy needed to process data. Slava Apel, CEO of Amazing Print Corp., Ontario, Canada, admits he’s always been curious about new technology. But he first became interested in the virtualization process as an organizational time-saver.

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