Reselling old storage devices when upgrading to newer platforms can be a complex issue, particularly when it comes to the content stored on it. But there are established channels and service providers which are geared up to help. Storage units are often perfectly adequate for other users, despite lacking a manufacturer's warranty.
The resale of storage media presents a range of information security and environmental challenges, according to Kate Garbellini from Deloitte's Security and Privacy team.
She says that if the data stored on a device no longer needs to be kept, and your organisation's policy which governs the media permits its reuse or resale, you will need to decide on which tools, procedures and budget will be required to adequately clear the discs of data.
If the data's classification and organisational policy do not permit the use of the storage device outside the organisation, there are a number of issues that must be considered prior to its resale. These include considering whether degaussing (randomising the storage media's magnetic fields) is sufficient, or whether more thorough measures need to be taken - for example, drilling, grinding, shredding or incineration. If so, you need to address the environmental and recycling concerns, and ensure that precious and valuable materials are recovered.
"Many organisations outsource the recycling of storage media to dedicated establishments with access to specialist equipment to ensure environmental compliance and cost efficiency," says Garbellini.
She adds that when working with recycling service providers, businesses have a responsibility to agree contracts and standards that will meet their own industry's data security requirements.
Vibrant reseller market
There appears to be a vibrant market for refurbished hard drives on sites such as eBay, with a number of active volume resellers operating.
One respected IT hosting firm, Memset, frequently sells its old hard drives in "job lots" on eBay, after ensuring that the data on the hard drives has been thoroughly overwritten.
There are many service providers that help organisations to decommission their legacy servers and storage hardware, through disposal, recycling, part exchange or resale. IT services firm Morse is one of these.
Morse consultant Tim Turquand says that firms such as his can ensure that data is completely removed from devices and guarantee that any disposal is performed in accordance with the Environment Agency's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives and data protection legislation.
They can also provide certification of all activities, as well as meeting data deletion standards such as HMG Infosec Standard 5, ITSG-06 or NIST SP-800-88.
Turquand advises businesses to make decommissioning storage an ongoing process rather than a series of one-off events. "If they take a holistic view of their entire technology lifecycle, from purchase to running and maintenance, they can make better decisions on when to retire assets. Thus, storage can be resold when it still has value, rather than waiting until it is only worth something as scrap."
Mike Vinten, chief executive officer of professional services firm Thesaurus, says he is currently seeing larger numbers of old IBM Enterprise Storage Servers (Sharks) and Hitachi Data Storage systems being resold.
He adds that when reselling any storage it is always worth going through a managed services supplier, as they tend to have strong links with brokerage firms. "Using the expertise of an IT supplier removes the demands from a business, which will have to work twice as hard to find a suitable resell outlet."
Vinten adds that if the need to replace a device is part of an upgrade to the latest technology and a company has a managed services contract, then the managed services supplier will often arrange to get a buy-back value as well as arranging the removal of the old storage.
"Timely management of the installation of the new system is key and the migration of the data should be done seamlessly to ensure minimal disruption to business continuity.
"Reselling storage in this way is significantly cheaper than disposing of the technology due to the nature of non-biodegradeable storage elements and in turn helps to fund the new purchase," he said.