Over time, many IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) will end up collecting dead or obsolete IT equipment. Whether it be equipment you’ve finished using yourself or clients equipment that you’ve been asked to dispose of – how can you best dispose of unwanted IT equipment?
Sadly, many companies think that an effective IT disposal policy means putting a nail through a hard disk drive and throwing old equipment into a skip. This is neither legal nor ethical as all UK businesses need to comply with the Data Protection Act and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations.
While it may seem a quick and simple solution to dump IT equipment in this way, I’m a firm believer in that the standards you set in dealing with the small things leads to the culture of your business overall [TWEET THIS] The odd short cut here leads to another short cut there – and is that really the attitude you want your staff to subscribe to, or the type of business you want to grow?
Back down off my soapbox, and here are some tips on how to ethically dispose of IT equipment.
Securely Destroying Data
The Data Protection Act means that if you are disposing of IT equipment, you’ll need to ensure that all data from Hard Drives, CD’s, DVD’s and (often overlooked) backup tapes needs to be destroyed in a secure manner.
When it comes to destroying data on a Hard Disk, many people assume that a quick Format will do the job. While a Format will give the appearance of data being wiped, the data is easily recoverable using many “off the shelf” packages – so in reality the data has not been destroyed to any decent standard.
The package my own MSP used to destroy data securely was Active Killdisk. Available as a bootable USB Drive, CD-ROM or even a bootable Floppy Disk (useful for those old machines that won’t boot from USB) – KillDisk wipes data to a military grade, making it impossible to recover. The software is cheap to buy for small businesses, and free for individuals.
Ethically Disposing of Hardware
For IT companies, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations mean that electrical and electronic equipment should be broken down to a component level and recycled in an approved facility.
There are many specialist IT disposal companies who will do this for you – providing you with a certificate of disposal. Further, these companies but will often also destroy any data and supply you with a data destruction certificate. This can be useful if you are disposing of large amounts of client equipment and the client wants assurances of the security of their data.
Donating and Recycling
But most smaller MSP’s don’t tend to have to dispose of large quantities of kit – rather it’s the working but ancient PC, or working but unwanted old printer or monitor that sits in the office gathering dust.
For ethically disposing of this type of equipment you might donate this equipment to a new home.
The web-site Freegle encourages you to not throw stuff away, but give it away! After ensuring any IT equipment is securely wiped of data, you can list the hardware on your local Freegle web-site and receive e-mails from individuals who are interested in taking it off your hands. My own MSP gave away old laptops, PC’s, Printers, Routers and Switches and even components like hard drives, SIMM and DIMM memory and Graphics Cards to hobbyists or students where the equipment would find a new lease of life. As the saying goes, one persons junk is another persons treasure!
It’s also worth considering building a relationship with Charities who can take your equipment and re-purpose it for good causes. The wonderful Computers for Charities takes your old equipment from you (often collecting it directly from you) and refurbish the items, securely destroying all data. They then work with Charities across the UK and abroad to distribute the new hardware. I’d encourage you to check out the work Computers for Charities do, at both home and abroad – it should leave no doubt that your old IT equipment can be used to make someone else’s life better.
Communicating to the client
However you decide to ethically dispose of IT equipment – it’s worth communicating this fact to your clients. Put together a short document or page on your web-site that explains how deal with IT disposals and why it’s important to you to do so ethically.
Sharing your process with your clients helps both reassure them and set the tone for the type of business they are working in with you.
Whether your IT business has a small amount of IT equipment to dispose of occasionally, or deals with disposals on a more regular basis, you should look to securely wipe any data on this equipment and dispose of it in both a legal and an ethical manner.
There are businesses and charity organisations that make IT equipment disposal easily and worthwhile – and the standards you set send a message to both your employees and your clients about the type of business you.
If you don’t have a defined IT disposal process or policy in place, I hope this blog post will encourage you to give it some thought.
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