Best use of your assets

Jon Godfrey highlights what councils need to consider when disposing of IT equipment and what benefits an asset management programme can bring

The WEEE Directive has raised the awareness of recycling and data security, but many organisations - whether they be private companies or local authorities - are still unsure of the risks that come from not disposing of their surplus or end-of-life IT equipment. This is because redundant equipment is almost always seen as waste and therefore not important. But it's time to move away from this viewpoint and begin to see end-of-life equipment as assets.

There is an intrinsic value to WEEE in relation to the materials that can be extracted from the waste equipment. But for local authorities, the true value for the end-of-life machinery is much higher. This is due to often sensitive and confidential information held on the equipment or indeed the value of the equipment as a reusable item.

As the world continues to move to digital formats and more confidential information is held electronically, then ensuring data security when equipment is discarded should be the number one concern for local authorities. LAs with end-of-life IT equipment to dispose of should be considering an asset management programme.

A well thought-out asset management programme will not only ensure sensitive information and equipment is disposed of securely and in accordance with the current regulations, it can also help expand the life span of the equipment. This means it can be reused, either by the disposing authority or by another third-party organisation.

Working with an asset management company, councils can undertake an appraisal of their redundant equipment to define its condition. Components and software are also evaluated to see which parts are available for reuse, including software packages and licences. After this, it can then be agreed which option is best to take. Typically, this can be one of three routes: refurbishment of the units, the remarketing of the units, or the total destruction of the equipment.

Breathing new life into old equipment
The refurbishment option can expand the life span of old IT equipment by up to three times. This means that equipment that would have been thrown away can be deployed back into the LA - reducing IT expenditure. The equipment is electronically data purged to ensure that any information previously held is removed.

The units are then refurbished to as-new status. This can include the replacement of broken parts, cleaning of the system, reloading software and programs and setting the unit up to the organisation's standards and wishes.

There are many standards for data purging. In the UK, the standard is set by the Communications Electronic Security Group, part of the Government Communications HQ. This is the only one acceptable for UK government departments and local authorities. Decision-makers should therefore make sure that any asset management partner used operates to the aforementioned standard.

Should the disposing authority no longer have a need for the equipment, the units could be reused, in this case, a remarketing programme would be the best option. At Sims Lifecycle Services, for example, we take the machines, refurbish them as above, removing any identifying marks, before providing a sales channel for the resale of the redundant equipment. This creates a way for the disposing organisation to realise a value in its end-of-life equipment, which can be used to offset the cost of the IT infrastructure.

Security comes first
But, for many councils, security will be the main priority. They will not want the redundant equipment to be reused, either internally or externally. The only option will be full destruction of the equipment. Again, there are certain standards set out for full destruction and the only way to ensure total destruction is to shred the hard drives. At Sims, we reduce the equipment down to 6mm pieces and recycle the units, ensuring that the information and unit can never be used by anyone ever again.

Finally, if security and cost savings aren't reason enough for LAs to reconsider how they deal with their end-of-life IT equipment, then environmental best practice should be. When you consider that it takes 1.8 tonnes of the earth to make just one computer and, on average, 265M new computers are made each year, then we can see the huge demands we are placing on the planet as we strive to keep abreast of the latest technology. Suddenly, reusing the resources we already have become more important than ever.

With technology moving at pace, more and more information being held electronically and ever more scrutiny over public spending, an asset management programme could be the answer for local authorities striving to ensure that they are making the most of their redundant assets whether it for the good of their reputation, budgets or the environment.

Jon Godfrey is director of strategic relationships at Sims Lifecycle Services

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