When older IT equipment is replaced or deemed no longer useful, organizations tend to stick it in a closet or storeroom. Old computers, servers, printers and mobile devices create an IT graveyard of sorts, much like that corner of your garage or attic where you put stuff that seems too valuable to throw in the garbage. Most of these organizations understand that old IT assets still have valuable data and can’t simply be tossed in the trash. However, they don’t have a formal process for decommissioning and disposing of this equipment.

Taking the “out of sight, out of mind” approach when getting rid of old equipment may be the quickest and easiest solution in the short term, but it can often lead to missed opportunities and added costs. IT assets can often be reused or refreshed, but organizations don’t know how to extend the useful life of their old technology. In some cases, equipment many have residual value that can be recovered through auction or resale. Of course, those closets and storerooms where old assets go to die are assets in and of themselves. You’re paying to own that space, so wouldn’t it make sense to use it more effectively?

Ultimately, IT assets can’t stay in a closet or storeroom forever. If data isn’t first removed from old equipment and backed up, you could lose data that is critical to business operations. This could affect your reputation with customers, vendors and business partners. Business and customer data could eventually be compromised if recovered from old hard drives, creating compliance and legal headaches. When technology is removed from storage, you have to follow recycling or disposal procedures that adhere to increasingly strict environmental regulations. Failure to do so could lead to heavy fines, bad publicity or even a lawsuit.

There are certain steps organizations should take when decommissioning IT equipment to ensure proper disposal and asset recovery. First, eliminate any accounts associated with old assets so ex-employees can’t access the device and hackers can’t use them to access your network. Because a computer’s hard drive contains programs, applications and data, the hard drive of each device should be removed, labeled and stored as if it were a sensitive document. There are programs that can be used to wipe the hard drive clean of data, but these programs typically can’t guarantee to remove all data. Once all data has been removed, the hard drive, as well as any storage devices, should be shredded and destroyed.

Keep detailed records of decommissioned IT assets – how each asset was used, what information was stored, who handled the decommissioning, and when it was decommissioned. Make sure this process is documented and regularly scheduled so old assets don’t sit in storage for many months or even years. Always follow security best practices, even if equipment is no longer actively used. Finally, be sure to follow Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for recycling and disposing of old IT assets., your outsourced IT department, can help you properly dispose of old IT assets and remove sensitive data. In fact, asset recovery is part of our full lifecycle managed services offering. In addition to creating and implementing a formal process for decommissioning technology, we can show you how to refurbish and reuse assets, save spare parts, take advantage of trade-in and trade-up opportunities, securely donate unneeded technology, and even sell off scrap metal. Let us help you reduce risk and extract as much value as possible from your old IT assets.

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I'm currently a junior at Rutgers University, majoring in Human Resources with a minor in Music. My love for music has already led me to an associates degree in Music from Raritan Valley Community College.