There are about 3 million data centers in the United States according to the Department of Energy. Gartner predicts that the “Internet of Things” — the physical devices that make up our connected world — will increase five-fold from 2015 to 2020. The amount of IT, tech-enabled devices in our world is already overwhelming, and it will continue to climb.

Currently, the IT asset disposition (ITAD) industry handles approximately 27% of this rising e-waste stream. That translates into processing or repurposing of 384,000,000 units annually. ITAD firms either process used equipment for resale, with obsolete equipment for one organization becoming a nice upgrade for another, or they recycle equipment in the most environmentally sensitive manner possible. Heavy metals are recovered and reused in the next generation of electronic devices, reducing manufacturing costs by reducing the need to mine new metals. More importantly, ITAD prevents these metals from finding their way into the waste stream.

Another very important factor in ITAD, especially in regards to data asset center recycling, is data security. According to IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Study, the average cost paid for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information was $145 in 2014. So it’s not surprising that in the same year Gartner predicted an 8% growth in spending toward data security as IT companies became more threat-aware. But companies are not yet threat-averse; this spending seldom addresses asset disposal. Terrifyingly, approximately 50% of the time IT equipment still has sensitive data on it when it is disposed of, making a data sanitization a crucial element to a proper data asset center recycling program.

The ITAD industry is booming. It represents a total addressable market estimated at around $9.8 billion dollars, handling 48 million tons of discontinued or excess technology gear according to recent research by Transparency Market Research. TMR predicts this market will swell to $41 billion by 2019, processing 141 million tons of used equipment.

But with such explosive growth comes responsibility. As demand increases, tech leaders must innovate within ITAD to keep up, or risk losing ground to e-waste and data breaches. Unfortunately, the field of ITAD tends to move slowly, which has to change in order to keep up the growing demands of the market and in order to responsibly respond to the needs to protect the environment and people’s private information.

IT leaders should be constantly looking for ways to innovate, no matter what side of the industry they’re on. Unfortunately, enterprise IT and hardware companies are not the easiest places to find the agility required to produce cutting edge solutions.


A Smart Way to Innovate in ITAD

So how can IT professionals innovate in the processing of old equipment? The answer may not be what you think. Rather than focusing on the hardware side (an understandable starting place considering that we’re talking about the disposal of physical assets), truly innovative companies are thinking software when it comes to ITAD.

Scott Burkett, chief technology officer for Apto Solutions, an ITAD vendor, explained that a simple philosophy is behind the view that software has a special role to play in ITAD. “Always deliver the right information, to the right person, at the right time. That’s the goal that should push those working in ITAD and data recycling towards.”

Burket provided a specific example of how software can innovate to deliver on this goal. “Most ITAD companies have a client portal that includes basic documentation and reporting, but they are clunky and difficult to use,” he stated. “They should be striving to give their customers more visibility and transparency into processes in a simple and easy to use platform.”

ITAD needs to provide companies with enhanced visibility into their disposal efforts — solutions like a cloud-based, customizable, responsive platform that shares real-time data. This type of transparency can ensure that e-waste is processed in the most cost effective, efficient, and environmentally-friendly manner possible.


What to Look for in ITAD Software

So what are the features that an IT professional should look for in a dashboard to effectively monitor their ITAD efforts? Apto recently sponsored a “hacker challenge” internally within their organization to zero in on what customers need to have to guarantee full visibility into the disposition of their assets. The following features were determined to be essential in addressing these needs.

Portal tools. As a client disposing of electronic waste, you should be able to have real-time access into everything that is happening with the entire disposition of your equipment. Every critical aspect should be visible, from receipt to final sale, including destruction, asset redeployment, or recycling. To maximize clarity, you should have self-service access to:

  • Product specs, components, and condition of equipment
  • Asset data at all stages of the process lifecycle
  • Logistics data for all equipment shipments
  • Data sanitization and recycling certificates organized by unique asset
  • Data sanitization logs
  • Video testimony of data destruction
  • Financial reporting of sales and expenses

Workflow and asset lifecycle tools. The ITAD process is much too important and complex to communicate via email alone. You should be able to access a dedicated, full-scale asset lifecycle client portal, customizable to your needs, that includes systemized tasks and pre-loaded data. This will make communication more efficient, reduces errors, and results in a more controlled process. This type of system should be able to handle:

  • Pickup and project requests
  • Real-time shipment status and tracking
  • New deployment and redeployment requests
  • Disposal approvals
  • Integration with transportation partners
  • Integration with client software

Valuation tools. Beyond recycling, you should have access within your portal to expert market valuation by specialists who know and immerse themselves in the market daily. This will enable you to make informed, confident decisions on whether to sell or recycle assets. The system should be able to regularly update the value of assets, and provide values based on part number and component input. This information will also prove highly useful in your relationship with trade-in partners.

Performance measurements and reporting. Your dashboard should be customized to the data that is most important to your organization. How do you measure success for your ITAD effort? You should be able to look at variables such as speed of processing, asset value, and recycling weight. You should be able to access a performance measurement plan with the tools to see, measure, and report on these custom metrics.

ITAM integration. Finally, software from your ITAD vendor should be able to communicate with your existing ITAM system to deliver a single integrated way to track all stages of your asset lifecycle.

The bottom line is that this type of dashboard should enable you to easily track your equipment throughout the decommissioning process and pull all the records you need to report back to your team. You should be able to use it to demonstrate ROI, show the lifetime value of assets, and keep your ITAD vendor accountable. Applying a software solution to your ITAD process is most effective at maximizing the relationship with your ITAD vendor.


Finding the Right ITAD Vendor

As the ITAD industry continues to boom, more and more companies are jumping into the space. In addition to ITAD vendors like Apto Solutions, large IT companies like IBM and HP have added ITAD offerings to their suite of services.

An ITAD firm can help you understand the best path forward in the reuse/recycling of your older assets. An ITAD firm can help you sort, audit, and test assets to decide when is the right time to replace. The firm can help you truly put a value on your assets, and more importantly, what it’s costing you to keep those assets in service. Getting the most value for your old equipment will obviously help take the sting out of that new equipment purchase. You need to work with someone who has a comprehensive understanding of every IT asset category, and they must have broad expertise across an array of channels to maximize your resale.

“Partnering with an ITAD vendor is essential to the success of our business,” says Jean-Marc Porson, channel manager at Quality Technology Services. “Services like data sanitization, asset recycling, and value recovery are too important to be placed in the hands of anyone but certified professionals. We trust and rely on our ITAD vendor’s expertise, which gives us peace of mind.”

When trying to find the right vendor to work with, ask yourself four questions:

  • Will my ITAD partner help me determine if the best financial option is to resell or recycle an asset?
  • If an asset is to be resold, does the vendor have the right wipe technology, and very specific, documented processes to ensure all sensitive data is verifiably destroyed?
  • Will my partner ensure an environmentally-sensitive recycle process to protect my organization from liability?
  • Does my partner have a strong enough of a network to maximize the value that I recover from my old equipment?

These questions illustrate why software to monitor the whole ITAD process is so essential. Without the clarity good software provides, will you ever be able to get a truly honest answer to any of the above questions?

An ITAD vendor with a truly effective software platform can give you the visibility you need to help you determine the precisely right time to replace assets and how to maximize the value you receive for those assets. Most importantly, you can monitor the resale/recycling of assets to ensure that your business is protected from the potentially serious liability of data loss or environmental consequences of improper disposal. n