Content distribution platform WeTransfer said that it managed to cut its server emissions by 78 percent in 2022.

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– Sebastian Moss

WeTransfer migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2011 after two years of operations, and used Amazon S3 for storage and sending files.

In 2020, WeTransfer pledged to reduce its emissions by 30 percent by 2025. While in 2021 the company achieved a “carbon-neutral certification,” after using AWS’ Customer Carbon Footprint Tool to track, measure and forecast its carbon emissions generated through the platform’s AWS use, WeTransfer found that 91 percent of its total carbon footprint was generated by servers.

“People don’t understand that everything they do uses energy—from a video conference to sending an email or seeing an ad - and that energy results in CO2 emissions,” explains Lina Ruiz, director of social responsibility for WeTransfer.

“A mobile-first world makes these things even more urgent because everybody is using data centers for everything. Even though invisible to the naked eye, optimizing those services now will have a positive impact on future emissions.”

With more than 80 million active monthly users, who share data across 190 countries, the scale of this was significant.

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of their server use, WeTransfer switched to the Amazon EC2 Auto-Scaling, which scales compute time with the workload needed.

“It ensures we’re not holding more compute time and server capacity than we actually need so that it can be used for other workloads, which lowers environmental impact,” says WeTransfer’s CTO, Dan Conti. “However, when we do have spikes, we can scale up to meet them effectively.”

According to WeTransfer, 2022 saw a 78 percent reduction in emissions from server use compared to 2021.

“As our usage and business started to grow, our emissions started to grow also,” Conti describes. “Then, when we started implementing these measures, our server emissions dropped overall, despite our business continuing to grow. We’re not changing the user experience; we’re just focusing on how we use the technologies available to us.”

Many major companies have made carbon reduction pledges. Last week, the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact published a list of European service providers who have committed to net zero by 2030. Included in this list is Amazon Web Services which is listed as “certified,” meaning it has thus far complied with its commitments to sustainability.

It is worth noting that while WeTransfer is a Netherlands-based company, it uses AWS infrastructure located in the US.

Amazon is the largest corporate purchaser of PPAs, but earlier this year it was reported by the Oregonian that Amazon was quietly lobbying against a bill that would require data centers and crypto miners to shift to clean energy.