Strategic Technical Planning for Data Center Decommissioning: Achieving Efficiency and Results

data center decommissioning

Decommissioning a data center is a complicated process that requires careful planning and execution. However, many businesses underestimate the challenges involved and make common mistakes that end up costing them a significant amount of time and money. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common mistakes made during a data center decommission and how to avoid them. 

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that decommissioning a data center is not a “fly by the seat of your pants” operation. There are specific tasks that must be completed in a particular order, and failure to follow this process can lead to significant setbacks. Therefore, it’s essential to have an exhaustive plan in place that takes into account all aspects of the decommissioning process. Here is our list of the top 7 mistakes we commonly see:

  1. Proper asset tagging is a critical step that should not be overlooked when decommissioning a data center. To ensure that equipment and assets are handled appropriately, they should be categorized and labeled according to whether they need to be updated, replaced, or decommissioned.

If your business already has an IT asset management system in place, this should be a straightforward task. By properly tagging assets, you’ll have a trail of documentation that provides proof that your assets were handled in compliance with laws, company policies, and even warranty terms. 

It’s important to avoid oversights during this process, as they can come back to haunt you later on. By taking the time to properly tag and categorize assets, you can avoid potential issues and ensure that the decommissioning process is completed smoothly and efficiently. 

  1. Following proper data security and destruction protocols during data center decommissioning is a critical step that must not be overlooked. Failing to do so can have severe consequences for everyone involved. Data storage drives almost always contain sensitive business information that can harm your company and its employees if compromised. 

To protect your company’s data and its employees, it’s essential to use a professional secure data destruction service. Such a service should provide a detailed chain of custody reporting, as well as certificates of data destruction. It’s crucial to stay updated on the best tools available to protect your data from network attacks when discussing data center security. 

Professional destruction protocols are in place for a reason. They are the only way to ensure that your data does not fall into the wrong hands after decommissioning. Therefore, it’s essential to follow all data security and destruction protocols during the decommissioning process to avoid potential legal, financial, and reputational risks. 

  1. Performing a proper inventory and environment discovery is a crucial step that should not be overlooked when decommissioning a data center. To begin, you need to compile a comprehensive and detailed inventory discovery list of all your equipment, including its current state, storage needs, hardware, software, dependencies, networking details, equipment lists, support processes, and more. This list should also include a detailed scope of work and an environment map. 

Specifics matter greatly in this process, as they can have a significant impact on the value of your equipment. There are many variations when it comes to IT equipment, and even minor dissimilarities can affect the price. For instance, if you indicate that you have “10 Dell r730” servers, you have only narrowed it down to one of approximately 400 possibilities. The Dell r730 can range in price from about $2,000 to $16,000 

Therefore, it’s essential to be as specific as possible when compiling your inventory discovery list. This will enable you to accurately determine the value of your equipment and ensure that you receive the maximum amount of money back in your bank account. By taking the time to do a proper inventory and environment discovery, you can avoid potential financial losses and ensure a successful decommissioning process. 

  1. Follow proper safety protocols when moving heavy equipment during a data center decommission.  It can be a hazardous undertaking, and it’s essential to take appropriate safety measures to avoid unwanted issues. It’s not acceptable to risk damaging valuable assets or jeopardizing worker safety during a decommission. 

Most data centers have large, heavy equipment that requires proper care and precautions. Heavy racks, for example, usually require tip guards, while servers often require pallets and crating. Additionally, large trucks, hoists, forklifts, and other equipment may be required to move heavy equipment, each coming with its own risks, logistics, and safety concerns. 

During the planning stage, it’s crucial to identify worker safety risks and take steps to avoid potential safety hazards. Employees must also be fully aware of these risks. Employers can get free help from the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to identify workplace hazards, comply with standards, and establish safety and health strategies. 

  1. Proper planning of the actual data center decommission is crucial for a successful outcome. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This simple truth cannot be ignored, and it’s essential to have a plan in place before beginning any decommissioning process. 

The success of a data center decommission is largely determined by the planning of logistics during implementation. It’s important to conduct the decommission at an ideal time, avoiding peak hours. Developing an hour-by-hour plan that includes every date, step, responsibility, person responsible, interaction, linkage, and general event details is critical. 

Proper planning can help you determine whether hiring outside help is necessary, such as hiring experts to manage the decommission. This can be particularly beneficial in supplementing your in-house data center management team, even if they are qualified. 

  1. Failure to ensure that all end-of-life electronics end up with an R2 certified or E-stewards certified recycler is a critical mistake that should be avoided during data center decommissioning. While some IT assets may no longer be useful or worth selling due to age or damage, they must be disposed of responsibly. It’s not as simple as tossing them out with the trash, as environmental compliance regulations must be considered. Improper disposal of used electronics can cause significant air, water, and ground pollution, making it essential to ensure that all electronics are recycled responsibly by an R2 certified or E-stewards certified recycler. 

Recycling isn’t just the responsible thing to do; it can also be profitable. Certain components of electronics, such as memory, processors, hard drives, and circuit boards, have gold value. When properly recycled, these parts are shredded, separated for gold, melted down, and reused. 

  1. Using a specialized decommissioning company or ITAD resource is crucial during data center decommissioning.  Just as you wouldn’t trust your delicate and expensive equipment with general movers, you shouldn’t trust them with contractors who lack specific IT knowledge.

However, many companies overlook this aspect before beginning a data center decommission, and the number one reason is the lack of knowledge about decommissioning specialists. ITAD, which stands for Information Technology Asset Disposition, is the process of disposing of outdated, unviable, or undesired equipment in an environmentally safe and responsible manner. It is also a great way to turn your valuable IT into capital. 

With an ideal decommissioning service, you can trust that an ITAD company will handle all aspects of the decommission transparently, responsibly, and quickly. This includes handling shipping, recycling non-viable parts, wiping drives for security, and managing the logistics of the decommission itself. 

Whether you’re a project manager or just an interested party involved in a data center decommission, using a specialized decommissioning company or ITAD resource can give you peace of mind and ensure a successful outcome. By avoiding the common mistake of not using specialized contractors, you can ensure that your equipment is handled with care, and you receive the maximum value for your IT assets. 

In conclusion, decommissioning a data center is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. To avoid common mistakes and ensure a successful outcome, businesses must allocate enough time and resources, properly assess assets, document the process, dispose of waste responsibly, and communicate regularly with stakeholders. By following these guidelines, businesses can complete the decommissioning process with minimal disruption and cost. 

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