Over the years, I have collected a lot of cell phones. Like many people, I like to have the latest technology when it comes to my smartphone. I know that when I purchase a new phone, I will probably only keep it for two or three years. I retire my phones by putting them in my ‘retired smartphone box’ located in my garage. A smartphone that is two or three years old retains value, so what is the purpose of keeping those phones in a box? For me, my ‘retired smartphone box’ turned out to be a great strategy because I had teenage children. Together, they have broken their screens, dropped a phone in a deep lake, left a phone at a concert, and dropped one down a port-a-potty. In fact, this year, I ran out of spare smartphones due to the increased negligence of my youngest child.

IT asset managers face the challenge of having to do a refresh much like many people do with their smartphones. It is true that an asset refresh will keep the organization up to date with the latest technology, but there is also a higher cost that results from supporting older assets. The costs of assets not only include the purchase price, but the cost of supporting the asset during its lifecycle. Many organizations have a 3-5 year lifecycle for their IT assets.

To best determine a cost effective lifecycle for IT assets, analyze your support incidents. Some organizations might find that in year four and five of an asset lifecycle, the cost to support the asset is more than the cost of refreshing the asset. After gathering information about the total cost of an IT asset, it is time to define and create a refresh policy followed by a process that will enforce that policy. The objective of the refresh process is to transfer IT assets to a retired state. The following components should be part of an automated IT asset refresh policy:

  • Identify Assets to be disposed
  • Inspect Assets
  • Wipe Assets (Security)
  • Tag Assets
  • Prep for Resale
  • Sell Assets
  • Prep for Donation
  • Document value of assets that have been donated for tax purposes
  • Recycle Parts
  • Identify Assets to be Disposed

An asset lifecycle should be set prior to the purchase of the asset. If the asset lifecycle is every three years, and the organization refreshes one third of their assets every year, then IT asset tracking tools should easily identify those assets set to be retired by running a simple report. Included in the report should be cost centers affected by the refresh and the location of the asset. Important: If an organization is not properly tracking IT assets, they will increase their costs required to perform the asset refresh process. Any manual efforts used to search for missing assets is a cost in manpower to the organization. Inspect Assets Inspect assets to identify if they are working correctly. Assets that do not work correctly might be recycled while assets that are working correctly may be assigned to be sold, donated, or recycled. It is also important at this stage to identify devices containing proprietary information so those devices can be wiped. Wipe Assets (Security) Many security standards such as HIPAA and PCI require organizations to track devices that contain personal health or credit card information. When these assets are retired, standards require these devices be properly sanitized of all personal information. Some standards do not allow hard drives that contained personal information to be reused; therefore, hard drives would need to be destroyed and disposed of properly according to local environmental laws. Tag Assets for Resale or Donation Assets that are to be resold or donated should be tagged for identification prior to their transition. Once the assets are tagged, the organization should document that the asset has been officially retired and transitioned out of the organization. Third-party companies that specialize in IT Asset Disposal (ITAD) can provide assistance, including physically removing the assets from the organization. Recycle Parts When there is no value in selling or donating IT assets, a method to dispose and recycle parts for material will be the only option left for most organizations. Be sure to use a partner that can certify IT assets have been properly disposed. IT assets not properly disposed or recycled can result in fines issued by the local government. Summary It is easy for organizations to focus on the acquisition of software and hardware because there is a clear link between acquisition and productivity. It is quite obvious that a faster PC with the latest software should make the end user more productive. Often overlooked is how older outdated assets that are still in use effect productivity. To support assets that are no longer under warranty, or that might have compatibility issues which lead to higher security risk, could significantly raise the overall cost of the asset. Therefore, organizations need to have an ITAD process in place prior to acquiring assets for a cost effective IT asset management solution.   This article originally appeared on marcelshaw.com