A guide to storage decommissioning

Organisations should be in a position to decommission their older storage equipment

In a previous article I started to talk about how after revising backup and disaster recovery plans, organisations should be in a position to decommission their older storage equipment and be able to realise performance and financial benefits. Such was the interest in decommissioning that I thought it justified a column in its own right, writes Scott Hunter, senior consultant at Morse.

Organisations of any size should be looking at decommissioning as an ongoing rather than an ad hoc process if they are to fully realise the benefits.

Sustainability is a topic that is being increasingly talked about in many organisations as they look to maximise the value of their IT. Certainly one area where the sustainability mantra should apply is when it comes to the decommissioning of servers and storage hardware.

Reduce: consolidation and virtualisation can improve an organisation's utilisation rate. It can also help minimise the overall carbon costs involved as high carbon legacy platforms can be replaced with fewer, smaller, cooler and more energy-efficient equivalents.

Reuse: provided the total cost of ownership (including maintenance and power costs) isn't too high, the most direct value can be reclaimed by redeploying hardware to areas of your organisation that need it, to ensure that you are fully sweating your hardware assets

Recycle: this remains the most common practice, where optimal value can be reclaimed against replacement hardware.

A key element to the success of any decommissioning strategy is for you to have an holistic view of the entire hardware lifecycle, as only then can you properly make the decision to reduce, reuse or recycle.

If you go down the reduce or reuse route an important consideration is data management. From early on in the process, it is important that any vital data that is on legacy platforms is migrated and tested successfully in the new environment. This includes successful integration with existing back up and recovery systems and proven testing within business continuity plans.

Equally, if you are looking to recycle or dispose of hardware it is vital that data is securely overwritten or destroyed. Standards set by the British CESG Infosec in HMG Standard No.5 and the US Department of Defence (DoD 5220.22-M) dictate that you must use reliable destruction methods whether it be software tools or the physical degaussing (or even granulating) of the hard drive.

Although possibly the safest method of data destruction, granulating can drastically reduce the potential value of hardware recycling. This can leave you with a tough balancing act, however it is possible through reliable data elimination and the removal of identifying marks (eg, asset labels) for equipment to be returned for recycling.

When looking at your recycling options you should be thinking about how to get more residual value out of your hardware. This is made easier when you do have a holistic view of your IT lifecycle. By understanding how the running and maintenance of IT changes over time, it often makes sense to trade in equipment before it reaches its end of life, while it still has value. Additionally, vendors will often incentivise infrastructure renewal by offering improved buy back values against a competitor's equipment. By taking this approach you can help ensure that you are managing your technology lifecycle in a much more cost-effective way.

Clearly at some stage in the device lifecycle total destruction is required, so just as important as data security is ensuring that equipment is disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner. Whether you do this yourself or use a third-party, it is important that disposal adheres to environmental legislation including the WEEE Directive and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

It is important to consider the true total cost of ownership of your IT hardware at all times. Overall, you can achieve a great deal of value by adopting a sustainable perspective to decommissioning. You just need to ensure it is a continual process rather than an occasional spring clean.

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