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Decommissioning Old IT Equipment Made Easy

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

If done wrong, getting rid of old hardware can be a dangerous security leak and bad for the environment. Here's some tips on how to do it right.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockNobody wants their corporate data showing up on eBay. Decommissioning old IT equipment adds a few things you need to consideration in order to keep pace with technology, budgetary realities and securing  your proprietary data.

Decommissioning Old PCs

"The definition of old is going to differ in certain organizations," says Patricia Adams, an IT asset management expert with Landesk. "If you're talking to a vendor, old might be 12 months, but if you're talking to a customer that has budget constraints, old might be 2 years or it might be 7 years."

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"When it comes to laptops, most organizations I've seen will use anywhere from 2 to 3 years for a laptop," she says. "If they're having budget constraints, it's going to be one of those things that it just stays in use until the cost to support it or the cost to replace it gets too high, then they'll go out and buy a new one."

Adams outlines a typical process for decommissioning IT equipment:

  • Send an email out to the employee or the user stating their PC is at the end of life. The email should detail how the user will get a replacement PC, and they need to return their current model, so that the IT department can back up data.
  • Identify which software is transferable. Some of the applications might be. Operating systems won't be.
  • Transfer applications and data to a new device.
  • Contract with a disposal vendor and they'll have a plan on what they do with the device.

Most charities don't want old IT equipment; they want new stuff according to Adams. They only want 1-year-old assets.

After backing up the data, a company must decide whether to use a disposal vendor to wipe data or to wipe the data themselves. You also need to wipe the passwords, Adams advises.

She says a typical data wipe is rewriting over a hard disk three times. Now with flash memory, the company or disposal vendor pulls the storage out of each laptop.

When choosing a disposal vendor, Adams cautions that one of the key things to understand is what does the vendor subcontract? Who are the people involved? Often, the large national disposal vendors outsource to trucking companies to go and pack assets and bring them to their processing facility. Companies in regulated industries working with a disposal vendor should run background checks on the disposal vendor employees to ensure there are no background issues that could put your data at risk.

Decommissioning to the Cloud

Sash Sunkara, founder and CEO of Rackware, sees companies as holding onto servers way too long and face performance degradation and security issues.

She sees decommissioning happening faster because of the cloud. Sunkara sees lots of people shutting down data centers so they can stop paying maintenance, power, and cooling. In her experience, 5- to 7-year-old servers seem to be a road sign for such migrations.

While you'll still be working with a recycling provider to take your decommissioned servers, application migration time is only hours or a single application. She breaks down the best practices:

  • Encrypt your data.
  • Use a secure channel from your on-premise data center to your cloud provider.
  • Use a decent network for the migration that can accommodate the extra traffic.
  • Have your application developers available to ensure everything is working in the cloud.
  • Wipe your servers once you move your applications and data to the cloud.

Recycling old Smartphones

Ken Noel, director of operations for Tangoe , an IT and telecom expense management vendor, says what constitutes an old smartphone depends on the industry vertical. For example, oil companies are well known for using older phones out in the field. He says it depends on the industry vertical of what is too old for a smartphone. The level and job of the employee may also influence the age of their phone.

He cites a company's current phones and operating systems not supporting needed enterprise apps as driving upgrades. There's also security considerations that occur.

Phone upgrade eligibility as another decommissioning variable, Noel mentions. Sometimes carriers run a promotion of the previous year's smartphone for 99 cents to their business customers for everybody that's upgrade eligible. Companies taking advantage of such deals can then turn in their old phones to the carrier and make some money on the deal.

Ron Coleman, senior program manager for Tangoe recommends finding a device recycling program that's easy to use and transparent. Look for a program that runs itself so your administrators can log in to a web portal to view the status of device decommissioning from when the recycler receives your device all the way through the wiping of the device and if needed its actual destruction.

The program should also offer you a level of customization because decommissioning processes should meet your requirements. You also need to look for options for end-user and help desk device submissions to your recycler.

All recycling and required device destruction should follow Department of Defense guidelines. Coleman explains it as an added certification that means the recycler meets certain set standards to ensure your device has been wiped correctly. There's also the R2 Downstream certification that ensures that if the device is destroyed, the delivery and transportation of the devices was secure.

He also recommends you find a recycler who can tie into your procurement portal so you can automate the upgrade process from the cradle to the grave. Some recyclers will let you then print return labels from their portals to ease the recycling process.

Out with the Old

Think of your recycling vendor as a trusted partner. Do your upfront due diligence about them, identify a vendor, hire them and then work with them to craft a transparent and secure recycling process that satisfies your organization's requirements otherwise some lucky eBay buyer will know your corporate secrets.