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The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a lot about the current state of corporate IT. One of those lessons was that many employees required new endpoint hardware. This was especially true in cases where older computers were no longer operational or running out-of-date software applications, which in turn was creating security risks. This led many organizations to adopt more robust laptops, capable of running enterprise applications, or desktop units that were set up to accommodate remote access technologies. In some cases, companies even took another look at their data centers and server setups because they found themselves woefully unprepared for the emergency circumstances that forced everyone out of the office.

Demand for new computers increased substantially over the past two years as a result. IDC has reported that global PC shipments increased almost 13% in 2020. With new hardware purchases, companies have been faced with difficulty in disposing of their old equipment.

Obsolete electronics have long posed an environmental problem. However, the average lifespan of a computer is just a few years. And with the rapidly growing amount of power needed to run more complex enterprise applications in many industries, that churn may be accelerated.

But apart from the issue of toxic substances entering a landfill, old computers also present a security problem. They may contain sensitive corporate data, payment information, employee information, passwords and other bits of information that could be put to devastating use if they fall into the wrong hands. While you can follow procedures to wipe the data from an old computer, most employees do not have the expertise to do so successfully. Additionally, there are regulatory requirements in many industries that govern the proper disposal of computers that may contain personal or corporate data, so these processes must be followed to the letter.

Third-party companies can provide these disposal services, but MSPs should also play a role in end-of-life hardware processes. An MSP with enough staffing and experience can handle the wiping and disposal of old computers for clients, depending on the volume of devices and turnover frequency. Hardware OEMs or resellers may also provide these services as part of their warranty or exchange programs.

However, many MSPs may not have the capacity to manage the process or have clients with too high a volume of hardware churn to handle. They can still play a role by helping clients select an appropriate third-party service provider with experience in their industry. MSPs should also oversee and qualify the wiping and disposal process, as they (and their clients) will still have some liability if the disposal is not handled correctly.

In either case, the MSP can create additional revenue and further cement client relationships by offering cradle-to-grave services for the hardware their applications will run on.

Best practices to bear in mind for IT asset disposal and security

For an MSP that is on the fence about taking on IT asset disposition services, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Security-centric MSPs have a vested interest in asset disposal. It does not do the client or the MSP any good to spend money and time protecting applications and networks if a data breach occurs because an old company laptop winds up in the wrong hands.
  • Establish a hardware lifecycle plan in place with each client. The lifespan of a given computer will probably vary based on application and industry requirements. Still, the key here is to establish a plan with the client, so that the hardware is refreshed before the equipment starts getting buggy and slow. This will help keep the disposition process more manageable because the refresh cycle will be more predictable.
  • Make IT asset management and disposal part of your contracts. For an MSP responsible for managing a suite of critical applications, hardware plays a key role. Unfortunately, many organizations maintain these IT assets well past their useful life, which negatively affects their productivity and operations. This happens because the disposition process is too complicated for them to manage internally. As a result, there is ample opportunity for MSPs to fold these processes into their service portfolios.
  • IT asset disposition can help MSPs establish their environmental bona fides. Increasingly, both consumers and corporations are looking for businesses that can demonstrate a commitment to ecological sustainability. For example, e-waste is a huge problem. The amount of e-waste generated each year is not tracked and considered incalculable at this point, but it’s in the many dozens of megatons. MSPs can do their part by helping ensure that obsolete equipment is repurposed and recycled.
  • There is hidden revenue to be found in the disposition business. For MSPs that partner with a third-party disposal company, there is revenue to be gained from reselling white-label services. However, if an MSP handles the disposal process themselves, that equipment can be refurbished and resold either on the open market or to other clients. This is especially important right now, as demand for computers is growing, while supply has been constricted because of pandemic-created component shortages.

Equipment can also be donated to local schools, programs that help provide technology to developing countries (the World Computer Exchange, for example), or lower-income students and families. MSPs may also be able to connect with a local organization doing that type of work. A donation program can boost an MSP’s community profile and even provide a tax break.

The bottom line is that your clients need help to manage the disposal process properly. If they don’t receive the help to dispose of devices properly, that obsolete hardware poses a significant security risk. By helping to manage the disposal process, MSPs can better protect their clients, provide a valuable service, and create new revenue streams.

This article originally appeared in Channel Futures.

Photo: Poring Studio / Shutterstock


Posted by Nathan Bradbury

Nathan Bradbury is manager of systems engineering at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda.

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