Friday, 5 December 2014

FYI If You CBA, ITAD 101

Information is power.

Therefore ignorance is weakness. It is something anyone in the ITAD business faces on a regular basis. IT asset disposition is a brilliant name for what we do; it makes it sound very grand, very important and very complicated.

But it’s not.

Every business these days invests in Information Technology, another grand name for something which we rather take for granted. Obviously, no business in 2014 can be without IT; a website is becoming a prerequisite even for the smallest business, mobiles already are, telephone systems, databases, and clever copiers that scan, fax and make the coffee. Even the most modest company has all of these.

But they wear out, break down or simply become outdated, and then what do you do with them?

This is where the level of knowledge comes in, and let’s be honest here, it varies. If you work for a reasonably large organisation and it is your responsibility to refresh IT assets (posh for buying new stuff and clearing out the old) you will know something.

You will know you can’t just bin electrical equipment, probably. Thanks to domestic recycling we all have a minimal appreciation that we are all obligated to recycle. It keeps Nick Clegg really happy and it is generally ‘a good thing’ in this day and age.

So you need an alternative plan. You may have an existing supplier, or you may just Google it and get someone to come in. You may haggle over the price, you may not. You may listen to the myriad services on offer and take your pick, or you might ignore it all and make your decision based on cost alone. You may worry about data security or you may not.

If you do worry about your data, there is a danger that inertia sets in. Jane was working late the other night and took a call from a Facilities Manager at a London legal practise. He was making tentative enquiries about toner recycling but Jane has the gift of the gab and soon had him admitting to a pile of hard disk drives in a box beside his desk. They were there because he was aware of his responsibilities but did not have a clue what to do about them.

There is very little information out there. I have followed a riff about education not regulation on this blog before and this is why. Google ‘how do I recycle a computer’ and see for yourself. Some very basic advice, aimed at consumers, and some of it wildly inaccurate.

For instance, Which, an organisation many would consider to be independent and reputable (I don’t, I never won that draw, not once, obviously a scam!) suggests cheap or free data wiping software. Not good enough. A pro could recover the data in an hour. There are standards for this stuff, and the suggestions do not meet those standards.

Next you get into business offerings and charity providers. Believe me, visit a few sites and you will be totally confused, having long since lost the will to live. I even tried the ICO website but with little joy. Genghis tells us all how he will chop off our heads and enslave our children if we get it wrong but he is not so effective at providing advice on what to do.

So it is therefore no particular surprise that the vast majority of businesses have about as much knowledge of what they should be doing when they dispose of their IT kit as Ed Miliband has of eating a bacon sandwich without inviting media ridicule. Which is why SME’s (who are 98% of the businesses in this country, employing over half the people) always tend to have a pile of very old PC’s, laptops, servers, power units, cables, keyboards and phone handsets somewhere. Fear, apathy and ignorance results in indecision. And as long as that cupboard is there, or that corner of the warehouse is available, there is no need to panic.

I started this blog to shed some light on this sort of thing. But why should you believe me? I am trying to make a buck the same as everyone else. It’s a good question, but you have to trust someone in the end, so trust me. This is the truth, I promise. 

  1.  Don’t be blasé about data. Yesterday, we tested a fax machine. It printed out the last ten faxes it had sent, just like that, at the touch of a few buttons. Anything that has any sort of memory is a possible danger to your business. Not a huge danger, because not every fax machine falls into the hands of a criminal of course, but we are managing risks here. Wiping any memory bearing device ought to cost around a fiver. You can maybe get a deal if you have thousands but whether you wipe (best option, to allow future reuse) or destroy (no cheaper, slightly worse for the environment but it will end up as wall insulation or something of that ilk) paperwork for your records needs to be generated to comply with regulations and to prove it was done. That is not free. If someone offers to do it for free, ask yourself this...would you?
  2. Don’t ignore the paperwork. It’s very (very) boring but if something does go wrong or you get audited, you need to be able to produce it, by law.
  3. The idea of resale value is relative. If you are a state of the art tech business which refreshes its IT on a regular basis, and that kit is high end, there will be a resale value. At best you will cover the costs of data erasure and disposal and make a few quid back. You will not make a fortune. If you are not a state of the art tech business and you only replace your kit when it is begging for mercy, you are not going to cover your costs. No way Jose.
  4. Your costs will fall into three main categories. Logistics (posh word for Rob, John and Dom and our two vans) is one. We offer a collection service, but as long as they charge for diesel and the boys want paying at the end of the month, we have to charge too. Next is simply weight. We will collect just about anything. Most of it is junk; shelving, old desks, wires, bits of wood and plastic. We charge 85p a kilo to cover the cost of sorting it. If there is any hazardous waste to be collected, it needs to be treated properly and therefore we charge £1.50 a kilo to sort it. And finally we charge to data wipe, as above, £5 a disk.
  5. If your kit is very resalable, we will offer a cash back scheme. There are some costs involved in us selling anything on...PAT testing, giving a warranty, putting basic software back on a laptop or PC and delivering it to a new owner to name a few...but after we have deducted those we will offer a percentage cash refund to anyone with a reasonable amount of kit to recycle. This will not make you a millionaire. We are not millionaires either.
  6. This is the law. Simples. You have to do it or risk large fines, brand damage and customer alienation. Take a cheap option, cut some corners, if you really like. Take a look at the ICO’s web site for a list of the people he has fined and imagine your name there! It is not worth the risk.
  7. This is all about sustainability. At the end of the day, whether you are green or not, the reason businesses like eReco exist is to stop stuff ending up in landfill. It may cost you a few bob to do, but it is ‘a good thing’ to do.

So now you have no excuse. You know the basics. I shall expect my telephone to be red hot this morning as you all rush to clear out that cupboard or the corner of the warehouse. Call me on 01342-777550 and do the right thing.