An expert has advised a number of simple measures to make data centres more environmentally friendly, but has warned the message is becoming lost by companies distracted by the economic downturn.

If your data centre is really cold you should take a look at hardware specifications to see if the temperature can be turned up, which will result in savings on the power bill, according to SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) Europe chairman Juergen Arnold.

There is a lot of talk about green data centres, but when it comes to actual energy-saving projects and investments there isn't much going on, according to Arnold, who this week spoke at a SNIA Europe Academy event in Stockholm. Arnold attributes the gap between talk and action to the economic downturn, and companies spending money elsewhere. But it's important that the issue doesn't get lost, he said.

Even if budgets are tight there is a lot that can be done to make data centres greener and more energy efficient without spending a lot of money. A good place to start is cooling, because it represents 60 percent to 70 percent of data centre power spending, according to Arnold.

There is a lot of room for improvements, said Arnold. Currently, many data centres are too cold. "That's just because data centre managers want to be on safe side, and they don't know what kind of equipment they have," he said.

So companies need to check hardware specifications and assess what the actual temperature in the data centre should be, according to Arnold. New equipment can handle higher temperatures, compared to legacy hardware. If an assessment shows, for example, that there is an old storage array that stands in the way of increasing data centre temperature from 18 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius it could make financial sense to replace it, Arnold said.

Other tips on Arnold's do-it-yourself list include sorting out cabling and putting blanking panels in place in racks to improve airflow, and turning out the lights.

Much of this is trivial but people don't think, for example, about messy cabling that can have an impact on your power and cooling requirements. "To change it doesn't cost any money, and it might take you half a day to sort it out," said Arnold.

Companies that want to delve deeper should take a look at the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres, according to Arnold, who was involved in creating the document and now would like to see the European Union spend some money on marketing to increase awareness.

It includes 117 best practices, that all have been given a qualitative value - from 1 to 5 with 5 being the maximum value - to indicate the benefit that can be expected, according to Arnold. Turning off the lights, preferably automatically, gets a 1. On the other hand, virtualising and archiving rarely used legacy applications gets a 5.