Should You Shut Down Your Computers Each Night?

February 4, 2014 · 0 comments

I grew up in the 1960s, during the height of America’s Industrial Age. Machines were everywhere. They were respected, and tools were important. As the son and grandson of men who worked in the auto factories, I was taught to take care of my equipment, and that included making sure all of my equipment was shut off and all my tools were put away at the end of the day. It was a good habit. Later, the lessons I learned as a boy helped me maintain my printing equipment in tip-top shape during the 29 years I owned Express Press.

Today, however, we live in a different world. Most of the work around our offices is done on computers, not machines. So the question is, do we turn the computers off at the end of the day, or do we let them run all night? I know what my grandfather would say, but what would Steve Jobs have said about it?

Truthfully, I have researched this issue 6-8 times over the last 10 years, and there is no easy or “right” answer. About 50% of the articles, opinions, and studies I’ve found say it doesn’t hurt to let computers run 24/7, while 50% of the other expert opinions strongly encourage you to shut off your computers at night. The pros and cons on both sides are logical and compelling, and there is no consensus opinion. I like to make good decisions, based on strong facts. In this case, I couldn’t really do that because the experts saw it two different ways. That makes it kind of tough to come up with a good company policy that everyone will support. And for what it’s worth, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell are strangely silent on the issue.

However, we needed to have a policy at my company that gave us a direction one way or the other, or each individual employee would choose a random procedure based on their personal preferences. As a manager, that was too inconsistent for me because I knew that procedural inconsistency always causes problems sooner or later. So I was faced with making a somewhat arbitrary decision that would likely result in half of my co-workers agreeing and half disagreeing with my choice.

With that said, I decided to make our official company policy one of shutting off our computers every night. For me, the three reasons that tipped the decision in this direction were as follows: First, shutting the computers off at night saved electricity. That’s good stewardship. Second, many of the articles I read presented convincing information about the hard drives on our computers only having so many hours of ‘run time’ before they fail (the longer they run, the sooner they fail). Finally, my third reason was just about what I call “the personal disciplines.” I truly believe it’s a good idea to get in the habit of shutting off your computer at night as part of your shutdown and cleanup procedure. In a small way, it reminds each of us to plan our routine at the end of the day just a little better.

On a similar note, I added one more step to the policy and procedure about shutting off our computers at night. I asked everyone to refrain from having their computers automatically start up in the morning or shut down at night. I asked them to do it manually. That way, no computers would automatically start up when a coworker was absent or late, and no computer would stay on when a coworker left early.

My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.

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