Dealing With Hardware Disposals

Richard Tubb

computer hardwareDealing with Hardware disposals within your IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP) business is one of the often overlooked and taken-for-granted roles your perform on behalf of your clients.

When hardware comes to the end of its life, the vast majority of clients simply want rid of it - and turn to you to help them dispose of it.

How you deal with hardware disposals can influence how your client views you though, and without an upfront policy for hardware disposals, can cause some sticky situations.

Hardware in the Workshop

In my earlier blog post entitled “Building an IT Operations Manual - Dealing with Hardware” I covered dealing with Hardware in the Workshop.

Put simply, any hardware that comes back from a client site is considered to be “in the Workshop” - whether it’s sat on your workbench, or sat next to a Technicians desk. This hardware needs to be labeled with the clients name, a service ticket number from your PSA or Helpdesk application, and a description. For instance “XYZ Widget Co - 14662 - Faulty Hard Disk”.

Label ling hardware that is returned to your workshop avoids any confusion over why the machine is in the Workshop, what is wrong with it, and who it belongs to. It stops faulty hardware being sent back to the same client, or worse, being sent out to a different client.

Even hardware that is assumed to be “dead” needs to be labeled in this way, so that a proper health check can be taken and documented within a ticket.

Pre-Disposal Checklist

Once a health-check has been run on the hardware and you’re either unable to repair it or it’s deemed computer hardwarebeyond economical repair, the first thing you need to do is get the clients permission to dispose of the hardware.

This may seem like an un-necessary step, but if a client has paid for the hardware, don’t assume they’All want to dispose of it so quickly.

The client may wish to dispose of the hardware themself, or even leave the hardware sat in their own office to gather dust out of a sense of ownership. It’s their choice - let them make it and don’t make any assumptions.

Should the client ask you to dispose of the hardware, ask the client to “sign off” on the disposal. This could be as simple as an e-mail, or preferably a hardware disposal document you’ve put together.

Such a document can enable you to do two things.

  • Cover yourself against any client misunderstandings that the hardware was to be disposed of, and not repaired.
  • Demonstrate to the client that you are a professional organization, taking their security seriously and laying out the steps that are taken with hardware that is sent for disposal (more on this next).

Once the client has “signed off” on the disposal, it’s time to take the right steps to dispose of the hardware.

How to wipe data securely

The first and foremost concern should be for the clients security. Any hardware that you dispose of may contain client data, or identifying information.

On a PC this means that the Hard Disk needs to be removed and destroyed, or wiped to a military grade level using a tool such as Active KillDisk.

Even on a printer or monitor, there may be identifying information such as a business asset tag. Make sure all are removed before the hardware leaves your Workshop.

Ethical Disposal of Hardware

Your next step is to ethically dispose of the hardware. This doesn’t mean throwing it into the general waste bin at the back of the office!

In the UK, hardware needs to be disposed of in line with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. This means ensuring that the hardware is, where possible, recycled or recovered rather than sent to landfill.

Even if there isn’t a “green” initiative like WEEE in your local territory, it’s worth demonstrating your own businesses green credentials to clients in the Hardware Disposal process.

Many hardware manufacturers such as Dell and Lenovo now offer take-back schemes on hardware that you wish to dispose of, where they handle the process from start to finish.

There are many businesses that specialize in the environmentally friendly disposal of hardware on behalf of your MSP, so it’s worth seeking them out.

Other alternatives might include giving the hardware to a Charity such as ComputerAid International - who aim to reduce poverty through practical ICT solutions - or even giving away on a site like Freegle, where individuals save items from landfill for their own use.

I still know MSP’s who give hardware to apprentices and junior members of staff to practice on, stripping the hardware down for salvageable parts that can be used again.

However you dispose of the hardware, ensure that’s it’s done in an ethical fashion that can portray your business as a Professional community-aware organization to your client.

Closing the loop with the client

At the end of your hardware disposal process, it’s good practice to “close the loop” with the client - let them know what has happened to their hardware, the data contained on it, and how you have ethically disposed of it.

Many MSP’s issue a certificate to their clients to give peace-of-mind over their data and that they have acted in an environmentally friendly fashion. You might consider offering your own clients such a certificate - it will reflect well on you.

Conclusion

Dealing with Hardware Disposals can feel like a thankless chore, but it doesn’t need to be. With the right process in place, you can ensure that disposals are dealt with efficiently, client data is kept secure, and your business demonstrates that it takes its environmental concerns seriously.

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Richard TubbRichard Tubb works with MSP's to help them focus on what is important, free up their time and make more money. You don't have to do it alone any more!

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