Friday, 19 December 2014

Big Sticks and No Carrots

IT recycling is a business niche. For want of a better word, I suppose. Everyone needs to do it sooner or later, some more regularly than others, and the suppliers within the niche, or sector, or whatever you want to call it, battle it out for their fair market share. Same as any other sector.

The trouble about being in a niche is that awareness varies. Really big businesses get rid of a lot of kit all the time. They have a constant refresh process going on by the very nature of employing lots of people and running big systems. In these businesses they tend to take their responsibilities very seriously and their chosen suppliers have to be up to scratch.

As in any niche, suppliers and interested parties organise and get together to form an accreditation body, an industry promotion club. For ITAD (IT Asset Disposition for the uninitiated, we have ADISA (Asset Disposal and Information Security Alliance) and other than eReco’s own MD, Jane Taylor, the ADISA council includes executives from Dell and Microsoft, as well as many other businesses like us around the country.

It is about best practise and accreditation essentially. Any company certified to meet the ADISA standard has the knowledge, processes and tools to provide a professional ITAD service. They do spot checks and an annual audit – these are no low hurdles. And when tendering for any large business it is more or less a requirement to get a seat at the table, or at least it should be. Take a look at the website and see for yourself ( ). For the record, we are certified to distinction level.

But let’s get back to the trouble about being in a niche. 98% of businesses, employing over half the people in this country, are classified as SME’s. Most of those do not have a regular ITAD process and thus only use a supplier on a needs basis.

In this area the awareness levels drop away quite alarmingly. If you are a regular, loyal reader of this blog you will have some understanding of this. In short, it amounts to ignorance (of the regulations), apathy (I won’t get caught, I am too small) and fear or suspicion (I am a bit nervous of throwing my hard drives away because I don’t trust anyone to do it properly, and they are probably ripping me off anyway).

The good people tasked with disposing of old equipment in these organisations do not know about ADISA and they do not really get too excited about best practise. They are much more concerned with the cost of disposal. They are also far more susceptible to the temptations of the ‘we can do that for free’ brigade.

It is unfair to criticise ADISA for any of this. They perform an important role and promoting the body effectively to every business in this country would cost a small fortune. But they could and should lobby both the government and the regulators to help them do so. We are the knights in shining armour doing the dirty work for the ICO and his hordes and we could do with some help getting the message across.

Many regulators toy with the issue of data security. The FCA recommends the use of an ITAD partner and decapitates any members who lose client data – a fairly weak suggestion backed up with a blooming great big stick!

The Bar Council goes a little further, and I quote ‘there are a number of companies which offer the services of the secure destruction or safe recycling of computers and devices. However, be aware that some of these companies are less reputable than others, and have been known to provide documents purportedly evidencing destruction or secure erasure prior to resale. Actually, they have not provided the service at all. Ultimately responsibility for the failure by such a company to fulfil its contractual obligation to destroy or securely erase rests with you, as exemplified by a recent case decision of the ICO relating to an NHS Trust.’

My frustration is that the regulators go so far but don’t actually mention accreditation. What the Bar Council and the FCA should be saying is use an ADISA accredited ITAD supplier. It’s that simple. They are happy to highlight the problems, but not to promote the solutions.