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What is IT Asset Recovery? Much is written about sustainability, green IT and best practice, but it is the commercial advantages that are driving the current growth in the market for re-furbished IT equipment. However businesses who want their de-commissioned IT assets to be re-used need to proceed with care to ensure that no data ever falls into the wrong hands.

There are many instances when businesses need to dispose of IT equipment that is still in good working order – a corporate change, a software upgrade, a move to a cloud hosting system or similarly, a new IT strategy. IT Asset Recovery is the process of disposing of the hardware, and gaining the best possible value from the items that are being discarded.

The disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) became much more regulated at the start of 2014 when strict rules came into force to protect the environment and prevent WEEE from going to landfill, as much as possible. Because IT equipment has a large carbon footprint, it is preferable to re-use it as far as possible, which is far kinder to the environment than simply recycling the materials.

While no one would argue against re-using equipment and recycling, the argument for sustainability is not always a deciding factor in a business situation where it is the commercial outcome that matters most. Fortunately in the case of re-using IT equipment, the commercial argument is as persuasive as the environmental one. Machines that have become obsolescent to one owner may be very useful to another business, and there is a thriving market in re-marketed and re-used IT equipment, particularly for high-end workstations and servers.

This means that if an organisation decides to offer its surplus computer equipment for resale through a specialist broker, it can receive a payment to have the unwanted equipment removed, and the broker will recover the items that are saleable and send the remainder for specialist recycling where the valuable metals will be reclaimed.

The transaction provides extra income which can be added to the budget for new IT. Looking at the refurbished market from the point of view of potential purchasers, for those with restricted budgets, the re-marketed equipment offers some interesting opportunities to acquire good quality machines, which are usually provided with warranties, for a fraction of their original purchase cost.

There is, of course, a risk that data could fall into the wrong hands if any information remains on the disks at the point of disposal, so the IT Asset Disposal process must address this risk in the correct way. This applies particularly where the machines have contained sensitive information such as personal details or banking and credit card data, and there have been high profile cases in the media where such data has been leaked or lost.

There are several ways of ensuring that the data on the machines will never be accessible to anyone else.  Some organisations use software-based processes such as Blancco to delete their data, or degaussing, which uses magnetic fields to wipe the data completely. There are also shredding services which destroy the hard disks completely by cutting them into tiny pieces. For all of these methods, there should be a paper trail to certify that the data has been destroyed in the correct way.

In practice, most organisations remove the hard drives from the machines before they leave their premises.

We believe that all organisations should have a policy governing IT Asset Recovery, which allows them to maximise the value of the equipment and address the risks that might arise from the computers as they change ownership.

Four key points in this policy will be: to conduct a risk assessment before allowing any surplus equipment to leave the premises, to assign a responsible member of staff to oversee the process of deleting the data and disposing of the machines, to make a detailed inventory of equipment that is to be removed, to retain documentation that confirms that the data has been deleted in the correct way, or that the disks have been removed and destroyed. There is a helpful guide from the Information Commissioner’s Office here.

The last step will be to consider if the items can be remarketed and if so, how to obtain the best value from them. The market for re-used workstations and servers is healthy and prices rise and fall so it is always worth consulting an expert as to the value of the consignment.

The writer, Danny Carri, is Commercial Development Manager at LA Micro UK Ltd. The company provides IT Asset Recovery services for businesses wishing to dispose of large or small consignments of redundant IT equipment. More information from www.lamicro.co.uk