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ITAD: Explained

No matter what business you’re in, I’m sure it’s safe to say “technology plays a major role in it.” Whether you run an agri-business or a hedge fund, you can’t stay on top of your field without the right computing equipment. But what happens when your computers get old and need to be retired? How can you safely dispose of your end-of-life equipment?

This raises all kinds of questions about data security since you don’t want bad actors harvesting information from your old equipment. And, since you want to make sure your old computers aren’t damaging ecosystems or water supplies, it also raises environmental questions.

That’s where IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) comes in. It’s the practice of safely disposing of unneeded IT equipment and hardware. A good ITAD provider knows how to securely wipe your old equipment and discard it.ITAD companies can also figure out which parts can be reused or recycled.

Keep reading to learn more about how ITAD works and why it’s such an important field today. We’ll also get into how to recognize a good ITAD company and the services they provide.

Why is ITAD Important?

As companies continue to grow, they will inevitably need more IT hardware and network equipment. Some of this equipment will make it to the end-of-life stage, while some will likely need to be upgraded or replaced before its natural life cycle is up. The growing sophistication of equipment and the rapid life-cycling of that equipment, has made dealing with IT asset disposal an increasingly urgent issue.

Data security and environmental concerns have also made ITAD a more complex process than it once was. The days of just shredding computer hardware and dumping it in a scrap pile are things of the past. Now, computing equipment needs to be disposed of in a safe manner so the heavy metals, chemicals, and other harmful compounds they contain don’t end up in our soil and water. Likewise, data privacy regulations have changed the way that companies, organizations, and governments can dispose of their unwanted equipment.

A good ITAD service provider can solve these issues while helping your enterprise save money in your IT budget. Ideally, your ITAD service provider will be able to recycle or refurbish most of your old equipment, and may be able to resell the units that still have some lifespan left in them. That means more money can be rotated back into your budget, making it easier to keep your IT infrastructure at the cutting edge. 

Expansion of IT and the Data Center

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that IT sales are on the rise in virtually every category. That’s a function of the increasingly data-driven and interconnected world in which we live and do business in. The rise in IT spending seems poised to continue in the future, according to analysts in the field.

In 2021, according to Statista, global spending on devices of all kinds is expected to reach $705 billion. That represents a jump of 8 percent from 2020. Overall IT spending is projected to reach $3.92 trillion in 2021, an increase of 6.2 percent from 2020.

The jump in spending is probably most striking in the data center. Statista notes that in 2021, data center system spending is on track to reach $228 billion, which would represent an increase of 6.2 percent from the previous year.

Again, none of this is a surprise. Businesses of all kinds have never been more data-driven than they are today. More and more sectors are discovering the potential of data-driven tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform the way they do business. This naturally results in more IT expenditure, especially as enterprises scramble to catch up with the competition.

What does all of this mean? To be successful today, your enterprise needs to have a plan in place to manage your IT assets.This plan will have to account for the entire life cycle of your IT assets; from the point of procurement, all the way to disposal. Ideally, the plan should also build in cost-saving measures.

The Cost of Data Security

Data breaches cost businesses millions of dollars every year. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average breach costs $3.86 million and can last for more than 200 days, meaning a serious loss in business and productivity. Data breaches can erode customer trust and send even the most successful business into a downward spiral that’s difficult to recover from.

There’s a common perception that hackers target only government agencies and huge corporations. In fact, the opposite is true. Hackers often go after small and mid-size businesses because they know that many small businesses cut corners when it comes to security measures. Many small businesses operate on a lean budget and don’t put resources into installing proper network protections, training employees, or disposing of their unwanted IT assets properly.

Data breaches aren’t just a financial issue. In many cases, international, national, and local regulations can impose stiff penalties on anyone who fails to protect private data. These rules, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), don’t just impact businesses based in the regulated areas — they also impact anyone who does business with companies in those areas. If you are subject to data privacy regulations and fail to comply, you could face serious consequences.

ITAD and Data Security

Your old hardware still contains data, and very likely that includes private data belonging to your employees and customers. If you dispose of your old equipment without expunging the data beforehand, you could expose private data to hackers or identity thieves.

Fortunately, ITAD providers maintain best practices for thorough data sanitization so that none of your private data will be left vulnerable. This means your customers can remain confident in your ability to protect their privacy. It also means that your business will remain safe from those who might steal data off your old devices, and you won’t be liable for penalties incurred because of a data breach.

IT asset recovery is a related practice carried out by ITAD specialists and can maximize value recovery from your retired or unneeded computing hardware so no data is lost.

ITAD and Endpoint Devices

When you think about data protection, you tend to picture IT equipment housed in a huge data center; however, employee cell phones and other devices are also vulnerable to data breaches well. As BYOD (bring your own device) becomes more common, businesses will need to be more vigilant.

ITAD providers can dispose of practically any used hardware, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. They can also help your company devise a big-picture strategy for disposing and tracking all the equipment involved in running your enterprise. That strategy should include a policy for data sanitization.It should also include a procedure for determining when a device can be reused and when it should be disposed.

Reusing and Recycling

A good ITAD service provider will be able to help you create a plan for increased sustainability. That means carefully exploring options for reusing any device within your company. It also means exploring secondary and tertiary markets for equipment that might be reused in other data center environments (after being sanitized of data, of course).

There is also a growing movement to repair and repurpose equipment whenever possible which feeds into the sustainable hardware movement and focus on achieving zero waste.This is ultimately a win-win scenario since it saves money for enterprises while reducing the drain on global resources.

An ITAD services provider should be committed to being a good steward of your resources and global resources.

What to Look for in an ITAD Company

When selecting an ITAD provider, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Does the ITAD have certifications? There are a few certifying bodies that establish industry-standard best practices for electronics recycling and reuse, including R2, e-Stewards, and NAID. An ITAD provider or electronics recycler without any of these certifications may offer to pay for your equipment as scrap, but they are not offering you the full protections of proper ITAD.
  • Talk to them about their procedures for data sanitization, and ask questions about the different methods they use to erase data from media before processing for resale or recycling. Ask how they keep track of their workflow, monitor their vendors, and keep devices secure while in transport -- all the way through disposition.

In short, a great ITAD company will add value and be engaged at every single stage of your IT equipment’s life cycle, all while minimizing your impact on the environment.


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