5 Ways to Manage IT Asset Disposition

End-of-life (EOL) computers and hardware can be a pain, and they can actually drain dollars from your business. For short-handed IT departments, figuring out what to do with old laptops, server gear, and other junk may not be the highest priority, but when it comes to asset disposition, acting sooner rather than later is essential to avoid an avalanche of laptops pouring out of your chosen storage closet, flooding the hallways with broken screens, loose keycaps, and the shouts of your furious supervisor

Well, let’s not go there, shall we? Here are the 5 basic ways to manage IT Asset Disposition (ITAD):

1. Maintain in Storage

The simplest and most immediate solution is to store the EOL hardware on-site, locked up tight in a closet or unused office. Out of sight, out of mind! Of course, we’ve already discussed the dangers of leaving your hardware piling up, and unless you have an all-consuming black hole in your closet that will continuously swallow your laptops for years, you will reach a point where the wasted potential of the unused space in your office will surpass the cost of finding a proper way to dispose of your hardware. It’s fine to choose the easy option, but it’s not a sustainable solution.

“There will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” – Albus Dumbledore, noted expert on IT Asset Disposition.

2. Return to Manufacturer

First of all, if your IT department acquired the units through a leasing agreement with the manufacturer, then why are you even reading this? Just pack and ship your hardware back to where it came from! On the other hand, even if you’ve purchased your hardware outright, most manufacturers offer return programs that will accept your EOL hardware. Nice.

The downside of this is that you’ll have to separate your hardware according to the manufacturer, and deal with each appropriately. Only have Toshiba products? All’s well! But may the tech gods help you if you have 5 different brands of laptops in your workforce. Furthermore, you’ll have to worry about packing and shipping, and some manufacturers may not handle your disposition all the way; you may be handed off to 3rd-party vendors.

3. Destroy / Recycle

The third option is to shred and destroy all of your hardware, by sending it off to recycling centers. These companies will shred your storage devices, returning a certification receipt to you and ensuring that all your sensitive data is forever inaccessible. The hardware gets disassembled (either on-site or elsewhere), with useful and valuable materials being melted down for a new life, and the rest being sent to landfills. On the whole, it’s a relatively easy and painless process for your business, since all you need to do is to transport your hardware to the closest local technology recycling center, and it’s all taken care of pretty quickly.

What’s the catch? Well, first of all, did your 3-year-old laptops really need to be destroyed? Have they truly exhausted all of their capabilities and potential? Were they no longer usable by other segments of the population? Besides that, it’s not really clear where the disassembled parts of your hardware end up going. It’s known that some recyclers ship their waste to 3rd world locations for disassembly, handled by underpaid workers and thrown into landfills once the most valuable bits have been extracted.

4. Shred Storage Drives

Want a slightly more sustainable option? Why not just shred the storage drives and leave the rest of the computer intact? This ensures that the data on the device no longer becomes an issue, yet the computer can continue to serve others for the rest of its useful life…

…but, as you’ve probably guessed, more complexity equals more work. You or your contractors will have to separate the storage drives from their computers. Then, you’ll have to decide if you want to purchase new storage drives as replacements, before sending the computers to their next destination (wherever that may be).

5. Erase + Reuse

An even more environmentally-friendly solution is to securely and completely erase all storage drive data, keeping your hardware intact. Even better, slap on a new copy of Windows (or OSX) and your laptops will be ready for whatever destination you want: Employee buyback! Donations! Sales!

Unfortunately, implementing an effective erasure and re-imaging process for all your hardware is a complex undertaking on its own (we should know!), due to the wealth of knowledge your IT heroes will need to absorb: What hardware? What software? How much manpower? Moreover, any storage drives with failed erasures will have to be sent for shredding regardless. For these reasons, most businesses that opt for this option will select a 3rd-party vendor for their expertise.

What’s Next for Asset Disposition?

Finally. Are we done? Oh, the fun definitely doesn’t stop here.

Once you’ve discussed and decided on a plan of action, there are more points to consider: What’s the timeline of our asset disposal process? Should we execute in-house or outsource to a vendor? Which vendor? How do we get the biggest bang for our buck? Can we get these laptops into the hands of organizations that need them?

No worries, we’ll figure this out together. We’ll soon have more content to guide you through these questions and more; stay tuned!