Jun 11 2009

Please Dispose of Properly

Disposing of old IT equipment can be a challenge. Here are some options.

Keeping up with the latest hardware and software is hard enough, but every equipment upgrade means an old piece of equipment that needs to be disposed of properly. Retiring old equipment can be as complex an undertaking as selecting and procuring new equipment. In addition to local regulations about the disposal of technological gear, it needs to be stripped of any private data that could put your school district or your students at risk if it fell into the wrong hands.

When it comes to disposing of old computer equipment and other technology, there are really only three options: sell it, donate it or dispose of it. Let's walk through each.

Selling Used Computer Equipment

Selling your outdated gear is one way to relieve yourself of unused equipment and get some kind of monetary reimbursement. However, the monetary value of your old equipment is not likely to be very great, and the work you’ll need to do to find a likely buyer might not be worth it. If you choose to go this route, your best bet is to locate a reputable local third-party service that will sell or auction your equipment for you.

Donating Gear to Charity

“I definitely encourage [organizations] to donate their equipment to a worthwhile cause,” says Richard Hicks, the Director of Computers for Youth-Atlanta. “There are plenty of organizations that need this equipment.” Computers for Youth renovates computers for distribution to needy school children, after wiping the hard drives clean and removing any asset tags or other identifying information. “Make sure,” he advises, “that any organization you donate to is partnered with a recycler, for any equipment that cannot be used.”

Disposing of Technology Properly

“Donating gear to charity is great, but many organizations have pretty strict requirements on what they will take,” says Rob Balucas, Business Development Manager of SIC Consulting, a company that helps businesses upgrade and install new technology. When your gear falls outside the needs of charitable organizations, the only option left might be to simply trash it.

Navigating the tangle of local, state and federal guidelines for technology disposal can be a hassle, though. Fortunately, there are third parties that handle recycling and disposal in accordance with local regulations. Depending on the state, they might even pay you; in other states, you will have to pay a small fee. Do a search on Google for your county and “technology disposal” to find local agents that can help. “Green is big right now,” says Balucas. “Every town has an agency that will help you dispose properly.”

Dispose of Data Properly

“There are a lot of misconceptions about when data is truly eradicated,” says Ray Levental of CPR Tools. Data on hard drives and other storage media can be read long after you think you’ve deleted it — even after it’s been written over by newer files. Your school should, therefore, have a strict policy about the disposal of storage media.

Fortunately, there are standards and best practices that are proven effective. “If you go to a third party, ask if they comply with NISTSP-80088 purge,” advises Levantal. “Ask them for an audit trail. If they look at you like you’ve grown a third eyeball, find someone else.” If you do data wiping in-house, be sure the software you choose is also certified compliant with NISTSP-80088. Anything not up to that standard could put you or your clients at risk.