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What is ITAD and why does it matter for data center operators?

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Businesses are growing increasingly dependent on technology, and as a result, the number of available hardware options is growing. This also means that businesses are increasingly faced with a major dilemma - what to do with retiring computing, as well as that which reached end-of-life?

In the process of handling this gear, businesses need to mind multiple factors, from security and compliance, across finances, to the environment. 

In other words - simply throwing old stuff into the garbage bin no longer works. 

That’s where IT Asset Disposition - or ITAD - comes in. That is the practice that covers everything, from updating, to upgrading, to any other means of changing up your company hardware. 

Here’s everything you need to know about ITAD.

Why businesses decide on ITAD

There are many reasons why businesses may decide to ditch old gear. Maybe they believe new hardware will speed up their workflow and thus improve their bottom line. Maybe they think their customers would greatly benefit from new hardware. Maybe they intend to close down a part of their data center, or the entire facility. 

Whatever their reasoning, the logistics are complex. That is why having a proper plan, before starting the decommissioning, is paramount. Trying to dismantle any data center gear without a pre-approved plan for either reuse or disposal is not a good idea. 

Does ITAD apply to both endpoints and data center hardware?

In short - yes. With IT asset disposition, a company can dispose of both data center hardware, as well as endpoint devices including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other equipment. While most ITAD companies will gladly help you dispose of any hardware, they may specialize in one group, or the other.

Is ITAD always necessary?

Despite how things look, disposing of hardware is not always the best idea. Any good ITAD specialist will first consider refurbishing the gear. Hardware refurbishing has grown quite popular in these last couple of years, especially with the proliferation of the open-source movement. Open hardware standards for data centers have resulted in the creation of two additional markets, as white label gear can simply be reused elsewhere.

Google, for example, is known as the leader in proactive gear reparation. Allegedly, it’s very hard to differentiate between new and refurbished gear, in a Google data center. 

When such a big and influential company goes down this path, it instills major confidence in other on-premise operators, to remarket their IT gear. 

However, we’re still a long way to go from fully sustainable IT practices. A recent UN report says that 53.6 million tons of electronic hardware were thrown away in 2019. The Statue of Liberty, for example, weighs just 31 tons.

How to recycle your hardware - responsibly

Keeping existing gear in good shape, and optimized, for as long as possible, is an amazing, cost-efficient mindset, but it’s not always feasible. Sometimes there is no other choice but to replace the gear. 

When that day comes, it’s essential for data center providers to make sure they comply with all local, state, and federal regulations, when it comes to ensuring the security of the data found on these devices, as well as how they’re being disposed of.

Simply choosing any name from a long list of ITAD service providers will not suffice. Some are better than others, and choosing poorly may result in a number of headaches, from data breaches to rising expenses. 

Before choosing a service provider, make sure to ask for references and project history. See which data centers the ITAD provider serviced in the past. 

Ask for industry certifications, such as R2 and e-Stewards. These two, for example, require the service provider to adhere to a strict set of compliance requirements. You should also ask if the provider carries the ADISA (Asset Disposal and Information Security Alliance) certification, and discuss how they stay compliant with the NIST SP 800-88 industry standard.

What to look for in an ITAD service provider

Besides job history, references, and certifications, there are three more things you can look for, in your quest to find the appropriate ITAD service provider: 

  • Their thoughts on the most cost-efficient way to procure new gear, as well as how to get additional value from gear scheduled for decommissioning;
  • Their thoughts on squeezing just a little more juice from existing hardware, through optimization
  • Their added-value services, such as handling warranty management, or return management process

Businesses can also ask ITAD service providers if they provide any assistance with the supply chain that supports the data center. Obtaining the right hardware, as fast as possible, has become an increasingly challenging task, especially since COVID-19 and the disruption to the global supply chain that ensued. 

Due diligence and sustainability

The data center market with, undoubtedly grow. The global economy is becoming more driven, and growing more dependent, on data, by the day. That means - businesses’ need for more software - and more hardware - will be insatiable in the years to come.

The growth of the data center industry will, almost certainly, be followed by the growth of the ITAD service provider industry, as well. That means, that choosing the right partner for your IT decommissioning needs will become more challenging. Tightening regulations and increasing awareness of sustainable living will only make it more difficult. 

Being able to safely, and responsibly, discard your gear, should always be front and center, not only for staying compliant and mindful of the environment we all share but also for cutting down on expenses and improving the bottom line. 

Businesses need to make sure they research all their potential partners thoroughly, and ask the right questions, with regard to previous experiences, regulation compliance, certifications, as well as their methods and approaches.