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How to get the most out of your data center decommissioning service providers

Decommissioning
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The first step towards a successful decommissioning of outdated data center gear is always the same - planning. Without properly laying out the blueprint for the operation, its demise is almost inevitable.

But what does “proper planning” even mean? Here are five key pointers to help you prepare the best plan for your data center decommissioning endeavors.

#1 Don’t be afraid to cede power

Look, I get it. You’re the data center operator, you know your premises better than anyone. But you won’t have the time, nor the energy, to handle everything by yourself, as there’s simply too much to do. A data center decommissioning project can have so many steps and tasks that it can feel like a skyscraper construction operation.

But there are vasts pools of services you can tap into, in order to get the job done, with quality. There are many high-level IT asset disposition (ITAD) companies that can take the load off, and not have you risk things going awry. 

However, without taking the time to choose the right partner, things might go south.

In order to ensure you’ve chosen the right partner for the job, listen to their questions about your technology landscape. Are they aware of all the regulations you need to be compliant with? What about industry standards? 

#2 Plan for every scenario

With thorough planning, even the most complex of tasks can be completed with relative ease. For something like data center gear decommissioning, a checklist will do wonders. Demand your ITAD partner to provide you with a template, which you will then tweak, jointly.

Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

  • Determine your goals. What would you consider a successfully completed project?
  • Set the timeline. Don’t be too optimistic about the timeframe.
  • Appoint a project manager to oversee the project. Tap into your ITAD partners for this, if possible. 
  • List all of the hardware that holds sensitive data (think HDDs, SSDs, tape, and networking equipment), that needs to be disposed of. Consider your options for data sanitation both in-house and with third-party partners.
  • Catalog all of the assets you’ll be using for the project, including both hardware, and software. IT asset management software can come in handy, here.
  • Make sure every item gets properly labeled (think reuse, dispose of, refurbish). There could be fewer, or more labels, depending on your project’s goals.
  • Keep in mind that most of the gear labeled for decommissioning usually carries residual value that can cut down on project costs. Consult with your ITAD partners on this.

#3 Be strict

You’ve invested plenty of thought and time in planning - don’t get sloppy with the execution. Whether or not your plan works, depends mostly on how demanding you are that it’s completely honored, and how much you trust your ITAD partner with making sure they do the same.

If you’re unsure how much you should trust your partner, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is there a method to the decommissioning workflow? Each stage should be clearly defined.
  • Does your partner have a clear understanding of the project’s milestones? 
  • How do you plan to keep project visibility? Demand frequent updates, and keep in mind that the best ITAD partners won’t cut corners and risk busting the entire project. 

#4 Demand the best logistics

With so many things to address, data center operators frequently forget about logistics. However, you should always keep in mind that tearing the gear down (with filigree precision), packing it up, and shipping it to where you need it, is the endgame. 

This is another area where your ITAD partner’s experience and knowledge will come in handy. After all, ITADs do this on an (almost) daily basis - their knowledge will be indispensable here. 

Go over the different ways to transport the gear off-site, meticulously. There could be significant differences in the cost, time, and effort, for different types of gear, and among different ITADs. 

Also, after successfully disposing of the gear, communicate with your IT and accounting departments to make sure the records of all of the hardware are clean. Ask your ITAD partners for digital certificates confirming the data on the gear has been properly handled, as well.

Most data center operators aren’t planning on getting rid of their hardware that fast. According to a recent report by Uptime Institute, more than half of enterprise hardware will stay on-prem for the remainder of the year. Ironically, the same report also states that data center operators continue struggling with properly managing their hardware, including decommissioning. 

#5 Think ahead

The decommissioning of data center hardware is a two-step process, which includes both careful planning and even more careful execution. Whoever you choose as your partner in this endeavor, hold them to high standards from the first, to the last, step. 

Ask yourself if they can help you with:

  • How you handle hardware replacement
  • How you address data sanitation 
  • How you manage returns and warranties 

It is also important to make sure your partner isn’t someone who’ll do whatever you say - no questions asked. A strong ITAD partner has invaluable experience and should use it to take the lead, when necessary. 

Closing comments

The idea of reusing or remarketing outdated data center gear still triggers anxiety among many data center operators, while the thought of bringing a third party into the mix only exacerbates the dread. Most anxious operators doubt the good intentions of IT asset disposition service providers. 

However, it’s a “do or die” kind of situation. Hardware is getting more complex, and more varied. Digital transformation is biting at every aspect of business, and we’ve already come to a point where a firm cannot expect to succeed without transforming into a digital business.

An ITAD partner has, thus, become essential. Carefully consider all aspects of their work, and identify the place where the ITAD piece fits in your operational puzzle. After that, the choice is easier, and luckily for all, there are plenty of ITADs to choose from.