Mother of invention
In 2000, Cindy Tatham was working for Washington County, Oregon, helping local businesses set up recycling programs. Businesses were concerned about rising energy costs. At the same time, within the county offices, the IT guys wanted a way to centrally power down users' machines. She asked her husband, Jim, a software developer, if he could come up with a way to solve both problems. He and some former co-workers produced Surveyor power-management software. In 2001 they founded Verdiem to sell the software.

Blatant Abuse Of Power
About two-thirds of energy used by computers is wasted by machines that aren't in use, says a report for the Department of Energy. Can't people turn off their PCs? "If everybody did that, there would be no need for us," says Verdiem CEO Kevin Klustner.

Going corporate
Initially Verdiem's clients were all public entities like municipalities and school districts. "They can't sell more widgets to make money, so they need to reduce their costs," Jim Tatham says. But sustainability has risen on the agenda of corporate boards. Verdiem's client list doubled last year, to more than 150 customers, and revenue tripled. Customers include Random House and Clear Channel Communications (NYSE:CCU). In September, HP (NYSE:HPQ) began loading Surveyor on all the business PCs it sells.

Green Machines
Verdiem's Surveyor software monitors mouse and keyboard use to determine whether a computer is in use. It lets an IT department automatically set PCs to low-power modes at certain times of day, or when they have been idle a long time. Bottom line: It lowers energy consumed per computer by 30 to 50 percent, for savings of $25 to $55 per PC per year.

Finding The Off Switch
A PC in standby or hibernate mode can use up to 90 percent less power than one that's on. But a University of California at Berkeley study found that 75 percent of office PC users don't use their power-management systems. And IT departments often prefer that unattended machines stay on in case they need to distribute a patch, such as a virus protection update. High electric bills? They don't come out of the IT budget.

Correction: The original version of this story, which appeared in the November 2007 issue, misspelled the last name of Cindy and Jim Tatham.