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Data Center Decommissioning Done Right

ITAD Best Practices to Safeguard Your Digital Assets

Technology moves fast. Since the 1970s, computer speed and power have doubled approximately every two years. This rapid evolutionary pace requires constant equipment upgrades and changing best practices in order for companies to remain competitive. Data centers that were once essential operational hubs are consolidating or being replaced by cloud-based solutions. This has resulted in an increased need for data center decommissioning.

Decommissioning a data center is more than just physically removing outdated equipment. Because these devices hold all your company’s sensitive data, the process is necessarily complicated. That data is your business’ lifeblood, so you want to ensure adequate safeguards are in place before the decommissioning process begins. Additionally, you probably want to maximize the residual value of the equipment itself.

ITAD best practices facilitate secure data handling and environmental responsibility while ensuring compliance with industry regulatory standards. A responsible and R2 certified ITAD provider can also help you recover value from your outdated assets through reuse, remarketing, and recycling. By following these best practices, your company can reduce risks, promote sustainability, and protect valuable digital assets.

Data Center Decommissioning Checklist

Like any complicated process, data center decommissioning functions most effectively with thorough planning and careful execution. While this checklist doesn’t cover every contingency, following these steps can help ensure an efficient process and effective outcome:

Keep Good Records

This may seem to go without saying, but it’s essential to have an accurate inventory of your IT equipment – both in and out of use. This includes servers, PCs, printers, routers, racks, cell phones, tablets, etc. An accurate itemized inventory should include:

  • Type of device, including vendor and model
  • IP address
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Software & licenses
  • Operating system version
  • Installed applications

An accurate inventory helps determine what equipment has reached the end of its useful lifespan, security strategies and compliance obligations, and avoids unnecessary asset purchases. Wherever possible, look for opportunities for IT asset recovery. Utilize network discovery tools to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Create a Plan

Establish goals and expected outcomes for your decommissioning project, setting timelines and identifying important milestones. It’s also important at this time to create a list of internal stakeholders as well as their role in the decommissioning process. A project manager, whether internal or external, should oversee the project from start to finish.

The project manager’s role is to determine and assign responsibilities and facilitate communication within the team. They should also make contact with affected vendors or clients, establish tracking for each asset to be decommissioned, and ensure data security. Robust security measures help prevent leaks or breaches that can damage your company’s reputation or result in penalties and fines.

Know the Law

To avoid those penalties and fines, it’s essential to remain in compliance with laws and regulations governing data security. Understanding regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can help you avoid costly legal repercussions. If you’re partnering with a professional ITAD provider, require digital certificates of data sanitization.

Ensure Responsible Recycling

An essential component of most decommissioning projects includes electronics recycling. This is another area where it’s critical to know and follow relevant regulatory guidelines and laws. If you’re partnering with an ITAD provider, ask if they’re R2 certified. This will ensure they’re up to date on current regulatory standards. By disposing of hazardous substances safely, you can minimize your company’s e-waste footprint. Reuse and recycling also maximize resource recovery.

Additionally, R2 certification ensures a traceable chain of custody throughout the data center decommissioning process. An effective chain of custody will include tracking of equipment removal, transportation, and its ultimate destination. This helps minimize liability, which is critical when handling sensitive data.

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5 Stages of Data Center Decommissioning

It’s essential to keep ITAD best practices in mind through every stage of the data center decommissioning process.

1. Facility Review

The first stage of data center decommissioning involves a thorough evaluation of your facility and its assets. This includes equipment and whatever data it contains. A facility review helps create a thorough understanding of the scope of the project. If you’re working with a professional ITAD company, they will consider things like the quantity and condition of equipment and any potential environmental or compliance issues. This assessment phase helps to develop a strategic plan.

2. Removal/Deinstallation

In this phase, the ITAD team works to remove all existing IT assets according to the strategic plan. Deinstallation involves dismantling equipment and disconnecting cables. It’s important to ensure disconnections haven’t resulted in any unexpected issues. This allows time to address problems before the equipment has left the building. It’s also important to label and tag all disconnected assets for clear identification and tracking.

3. Sanitize, Wipe & Destroy Data

An empty data center may make it look like the decommissioning process is complete, but in reality, the most important part comes next. All data stored on your decommissioned equipment must be securely wiped, sanitized, or destroyed according to accepted industry standards. Techniques include overwriting, degaussing, or physical destruction. Regulatory compliance is critical to protect sensitive data and avoid legal issues.

4. Value Recovery

Value recovery focuses on maximizing the potential value of decommissioned IT assets through reuse, recycling, or resale.

5. Disposal & Destruction

IT assets or component parts that cannot be used or resold require proper disposal. This is especially true of sensitive data storage equipment, where the risk isn’t worth the residual reward. Physical destruction using a shredder or other device must be done according to industry standards. Dispose of any generated waste in compliance with environmental regulations and industry best practices for responsible e-waste management.

Partner with an ITAD Professional

A professional ITAD company will follow industry best practices and comply with data privacy regulations. Their professional knowledge will guarantee secure data erasure, reducing the risk of data breaches or leaks during the decommissioning process.

If you’re looking for an ITAD partner to help ensure a seamless and compliant decommissioning process, contact GCI today.