Companies as well as their customers are creating an increasing amount of data, causing a growing need for businesses to acquire the technology to support and run applications to manage that data. These technologies and the data centers they are housed in guzzle power at a dramatic rate and are incredibly energy inefficient. According to information from Smart Data Collective contributor Cameron Graham, almost 20 percent of technology's overall carbon footprint is created by data centers, and the percentage will only increase as wearable technology and the Internet of Things grow in popularity .

The way data centers are set up is to blame for the majority of their inefficiency. The unpredictable nature of Internet traffic means data centers need to be running continuously at full capacity in the event of a spike in need. This causes the average data center to only spend between 6 and 12 percent of its electrical output on actual computing, according to a study by McKinsey and Company.

"It's staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems," data center designer Peter Gross said in an interview with The New York Times. "A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town."

According to information from a study by Stanford University research fellow Jonathan G. Koomey reported in The New York Times, data centers nationwide used around 76 billion kilowatt hours in 2010. This amounts to nearly 2 percent of all electricity used in the U.S. that year. The dramatic amount of energy used to power data centers and rising energy costs is putting financial and ethical strains on companies and causing them to look for more energy- and cost-efficient ways of managing their enterprise information.

Increased efficiency with the cloud
Data center efficiency will be one of the main energy management initiatives for organizations over the next five years, according to a recent Schneider Electric survey. While businesses often look to make improvements to the physical structures of their data centers to increase efficiency, many are now turning to cloud server providers to meet the same goal. Businesses interested in reducing spending, improving risk profiles and increasing efficiency while also allowing them to hold off on large capital expenditures have found the cloud to be the most practical solution. Not only does the cloud offer greater computing agility and increased scalability, but it is incredibly energy efficient.

Cloud infrastructures are capable of supporting multiple functions simultaneously which allows more efficient distribution of resources. The cloud's increased efficiency means systems can accomplish more processing while consuming less energy, which in turn reduces carbon emissions and enterprise computing costs. At the same time, utilizing the cloud allows companies to shift some of their capital costs to operational expenses and help to create savings in maintenance, licensing, administration and reduced downtime.

Systems are made more agile in the cloud, as utilizing the technology promotes more effective applications resulting in greater flexibility and improved completion cycles. Consolidating data center use with cloud infrastructure also allows companies to standardize the development of application environments, creating more controlled and efficient lifecycles for applications.