Wednesday October 24, 2012 0 comments
Solar web-hosting company finds greener way to serve customers
By Kay Rios
DENVER -- Just as in the fairy tale where magic beans sprout into something wondrous to behold, Beanstalk Solar Hosting has grown from an offshoot of Denver-based Unleaded Software into a blossoming enterprise.
Beanstalk Solar Hosting is a website-hosting environment using the Sun's power and drawing enough energy to handle hosting for anything from individual websites to the most active e-commerce online stores that feature hundreds of thousands of products and draw thousands of visitors at a time.
Beanstalk Solar Hosting is powered by a 3.7-kilowatt solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system installed by Adobe Solar of Colorado. This grid-tied, solar PV system is mounted on the Denver facility's roof just above the Beanstalk servers and is made up of twenty 185-watt Mitsubishi solar panels and one Frontius solar inverter.
By taking advantage of Colorado's 300-plus days of sunshine, the system is expected to produce an average of 410 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. Over the next 30 years, Beanstalk estimates its system will offset more than 189,000 lbs. of CO2, equivalent to driving 220,000 miles.
Along with providing clean renewable solar electricity, the system is expected to save over $48,000 in electrical costs at current rates.
Michael Pfeiffer, associate to the president of Unleaded Group, said the idea for a solar-hosting option came from looking at the current state of the website industry.
"We noticed that one of the big problems with the Internet and all the necessary infrastructure and energy was the carbon footprint that went along with it," he said. "And, being based in Colorado, using solar just made so much sense."
In addition to its Denver center, there's an additional center near Louisville at RockyNet, a separate data center.
"They run the center and we rent space there for backup and redundant servers," Pfeiffer said. "That way, if one server goes down, the other will pick up the traffic. So the user wouldn't see a disturbance and won't be affected by an outage."
Beanstalk has also taken the precaution of connecting its power to the Xcel Energy power grid. If it generates more power than its customers need, Beanstalk can sell it to Xcel.
Pfeiffer says there's no maximum when it comes to what Beanstalk can host. "Websites are from a single-page 'Hello World' type, to e-commerce sites that do $10,000 in sales a day. On the high end, we have dedicated servers and dedicated personnel. We host all types of websites, but we specialize in Magento."
Load balancing and other technologies help speed up the normal person's access to the website, he said. "If 100 people are visiting and purchasing, these methods and technologies help so that it doesn't feel like there are 99 other people on the site. You see it as an individual user."
Justin OConnell, director of programming and IT for Unleaded, said the server hardware selected has more options available and is more energy-efficient.
"We use solid-state drives instead of spinning disks," he said. "Solid-state drives use point six (.6) of a watt compared to five to seven watts for a spinning disk. When you figure we could have five, six or even eight drives in a server and 100 servers, that's a great power savings.
"We also use 80-plus certified power supplies, which guarantees they are at least 80 percent efficient. That's on the higher end of efficiency in power supplies."
Beanstalk works directly with the client's needs, OConnell said. Rather than use a small, dedicated server for each of its small to medium-size hosting clients, Beanstalk uses a virtualized infrastructure on large enterprise-class hardware.
"This allows us to assign exactly what's needed for each website we host," he said. "They can grow with minimal downtime. And, if they have a large sale, we can turn that up for a week to handle the increased traffic.
"Because they share the servers, we can shuffle things around to accommodate a temporary need and it's done within minutes rather than taking hours transferring to a bigger server if they were on a dedicated platform."
More than 400 sites
Beanstalk has already gathered more than 400 websites, 34 percent of which are international. Dave Ems, owner of OverstockDeals.com and Plumbingdepot.com, is one of its satisfied customers. Em said both of his websites were developed by the Unleaded Group and have been hosted by Beanstalk since June.
"The 'green' aspect and the capabilities of Beanstalk drew us," he said. "We haven't had any problems using them."
Ems' companies are a good test of Beanstalk's capacity. OverstockDeals showed a 1,615 percent growth over a three-year period. It is included on the INC 500 list of fastest-growing, privately-held companies and - according to Ems -- is No.11 in Internet retail.
Ems promotes a conservation/green philosophy and that fits with what Beanstalk offers, he says. "I'm really proud of the service."
Beanstalk's parent company, Unleaded Software, was founded in 1996 and -- seeing the growth of web hosting -- by the mid-2000s the company began building its own server infrastructure.
In 2004, Unleaded began hosting websites and continued to add server capacity until 2008, when a plan was made to spin the hosting off into a separate business.
Solar was gaining credibility across the country. With Unleaded's focus on social responsibility, it seemed the perfect solution, Pfeiffer said, and the idea for Beanstalk was planted.
Beanstalk Solar Hosting offers a variety of website hosting packages for personal and business. For more information, call Beanstalk Solar Hosting at 720-221-7126 or visit www.beanstalksolarhosting.com/.
Home Page photo featuring Unleaded Group President Jarod Clark courtesy of Unleaded Group.