What is ITAD? – Protect Sensitive Data

what is itad

No matter what business you’re in, it’s a safe bet that technology plays a major role in your work. Whether you run an agro-business or a hedge fund, you can’t stay on top of your field without the right computing equipment. But what happens when your computers get old and need to be retired? How can you safely dispose of your end-of-life equipment? 

This raises all kinds of questions about data security, since you don’t want bad actors to harvest information from your old equipment. It also raises environmental questions, since you want to make sure your old computers aren’t damaging ecosystems or water supplies.‌

That’s where IT asset disposition (ITAD) comes in. So what is ITAD? It’s the practice of safely disposing of unneeded IT equipment and hardware. A good ITAD provider knows how to securely wipe your old equipment and discard it. ITAD companies can also figure out which parts of your unused equipment can be reused or recycled. 

‌Keep reading to learn more about exactly how ITAD works and why it’s such an important field today. We’ll also get into how to recognize a good ITAD company and what these services can do for your business.

Why is ITAD Important?

As a business grows, it inevitably takes on more computers and network equipment. Some of this equipment will make it to the end-of-life stage, while some will likely need to be upgraded and replaced before its natural life cycle is up. The growing sophistication of equipment, and the rapid cycling through of that equipment, has made dealing with IT asset disposal an increasingly urgent issue.

Data security and environmental concerns have also made ITAD a more complex process than it once was. The days of just shredding computer hardware and then dumping it in the scrap heap are a thing of the past. Now, computing equipment needs to be disposed of in a safe manner so the heavy metals, chemicals, and other harmful compounds they contain don’t end up in our soil and water. 

Likewise, data privacy regulations have changed the way that companies, organizations and governments can dispose of their unwanted equipment. 

A good ITAD services provider can solve these issues while also helping your enterprise to save money in your IT budget. Ideally, your ITAD servicer will be able to recycle or refurbish most of your old equipment, and may even be able to resell the units that still have some lifespan left in them. . That means more money can be rotated back into your budget, making it easier to keep your IT infrastructure at the cutting edge. 

Expansion of IT and the Data Center

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that IT sales are on the rise in virtually every category. That’s a function of the increasingly data-driven and interconnected world in which we all live and do business. The rise in IT spending seems poised to continue in the future, according to analysts in the field.

In 2021, according to Statista, global spending on devices of all kinds is expected to reach $705 billion. That represents a jump of 8 percent from 2020. Overall IT spending is projected to reach $3.92 trillion in 2021, an increase of 6.2 percent from 2020. ‌

The jump in spending is probably most striking in the data center. Statista notes that in 2021, data center system spending is on track to reach $228 billion, which would represent an increase of 6.2 percent from the previous year. 

Again, none of this is a surprise. Business has never been more data-driven than it is today. More and more sectors are discovering the potential of data-driven tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform the way they do business. This naturally results in more IT expenditure, especially as enterprises scramble to catch up with the competition. 

What does all of this mean? To be successful today, your enterprise needs to have a plan in place for its hardware asset management. To be truly effective, this plan will have to account for the entire life cycle of your IT assets, from the point of procurement all the way to disposal. Ideally, that plan should also build in cost-saving measures.

The Cost of Data Security

Data breaches cost businesses millions of dollars every year. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average breach costs $3.86 million and can last for more than 200 days, meaning a serious loss in business and productivity. Data breaches can erode customer trust and send even the most successful business into a downward spiral that’s difficult to recover from.

There’s a common perception that hackers target only government agencies and huge corporations. In fact, the opposite is true. Hackers often go after small and midsize businesses because they know that many small businesses cut corners when it comes to security measures. 

Many small businesses operate on a lean budget and don’t put resources into installing proper network protections, training employees, or disposing of their unwanted IT assets properly. 

Data breaches aren’t just a financial issue, of course. In many cases, international, national, and local regulations can impose stiff penalties on anyone who fails to protect private data. These rules, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), don’t just impact businesses based in the regulated areas — they also impact anyone who does business with companies in those areas. If you are subject to data privacy regulations and fail to comply, you could face serious consequences.

ITAD and Data Security

Your old hardware still contains data — and very likely, that includes private data belonging to your employees and customers. If you dispose of your old equipment without expunging that data beforehand, you could expose private data to hackers or identity thieves. 

Fortunately, IT asset disposition providers maintain best practices for thorough data sanitization so that none of your private data will be left vulnerable. This means your customers can remain confident in your ability to protect their privacy. It also means, of course, that your business will remain safe from those who might steal data off your old devices, and you won’t be liable for penalties incurred because of a data breach.

IT asset recovery is a related practice carried out by ITAD specialists. IT asset recovery can maximize value recovery from your retired or unneeded computing hardware so that no data is lost.

ITAD and Endpoint Devices

When you think about data protection, you tend to picture a data center — but in fact, employee cell phones and other devices are also vulnerable to data breaches at the point of disposal. As BYOD becomes ever more common, this is an area in which businesses will need to be ever more vigilant.

ITAD providers can dispose of practically any and all used hardware, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. They can also help your company to devise a big-picture strategy for disposing of, and tracking, all the equipment involved in running your enterprise. That strategy should include a policy for data sanitization. It should also include a procedure for determining when a device can be reused and when it should be disposed of. ‌

Reusing and Recycling

A good ITAD services provider will be able to help you create a plan for increased sustainability. That means carefully exploring options for reusing any device within your company. It also means exploring secondary and tertiary markets for equipment that might be reused in other data center environments (after being sanitized of data, of course).

‌There is also a growing movement to repair and repurpose equipment whenever possible, which feeds into the sustainable hardware movement and into a focus on achieving zero waste. This is ultimately a win-win scenario, since it saves money for enterprises while reducing the drain on global resources. 

‌An ITAD services provider should be committed to being a good steward of your resources — and global resources.

What to Look for in an ITAD Company

When you select a company to be your ITAD provider, there are a few key things you’ll need to look for.‌

The first thing to ask about is certifications. There are a few certifying bodies that establish industry-standard best practices for electronics recycling and reuse, including R2, e-Stewards, and i-SIGMA. An ITAD provider or electronics recycler without any of these certifications may offer to pay for your equipment as scrap, but they are not offering you the full protections of proper ITAD.

‌Talk to them about their procedures for data sanitization, and ask questions about the different methods they use to erase data from media before processing for resale or recycling. Ask how they keep track of their workflow, monitor their vendors, and keep devices secure from transportation all the way through disposition.

Ideally, you should look for an ITAD company that can also help you with repair management to make sure you get the greatest possible benefit out of the equipment you already own. The right company might be able to help in procurement. Some ITAD firms can even help you handle warranty management and support you if you need to carry out a return.

In short, a great ITAD company will be engaged at every single stage of your IT equipment’s life cycle and will add value at every step — all while minimizing your impact on the environment.

Working With Cobalt

Cobalt is an R2-certified IT asset disposition firm specializing in electronics recycling and data destruction. If you’d like to learn what Cobalt can do to transform your IT asset management experience, contact us today. 

Call 513-433-2530 or contact us.