Report: Security tops green among e-waste concerns
Two-thirds of organizations surveyed don’t have a formal “green IT” plan
2009 Converge ITAD Report
The good news is that virtually all IT managers in a recent national survey say that IT asset disposition – the proper disposal of used electronic equipment – has become a strategic issue that has the attention of senior management. The not-so-good news is that there is little consistency in how these companies handle that responsibility.
These and other findings about enterprise e-waste are revealed in the 2009 Converge ITAD Report.
Mid-to large-sized companies, while generally dedicated to being “green” are far more worried about the data security risks of e-waste. Clearly, the consequences of data theft are intimidating; with new data from Ponemon Institute saying the average security breach costs nearly $7 million per episode.
“Green makes the headlines, but security keeps these IT managers up at night,” says Chris Adam, director of IT Asset Disposition for Converge, which commissioned the e-waste study. “In just a few short years the whole issue of phasing out old computers has escalated from a low-level tactical issue to a major strategic concern. The volume of outbound technology rises exponentially with each new upgrade cycle and the introduction of new platforms, particularly in the mobile device arena.”
Where does all that hardware – upwards of five to seven million tons a year from US business – go?
Just over half of the survey respondents say they are recycling their phased-out IT equipment. But good intentions may not always be matched by good business process, as a number of dramatic media documentaries have recently suggested that quantities of US e-waste are going to toxic dumping grounds in places like China and India.
More surprisingly perhaps in terms of the Converge ITAD Report, 15 percent of the IT managers surveyed said their companies still throw used IT assets into the dumpster. That, says Adam, is an invitation to environmental fines and catastrophic exposure of data that businesses have a legal obligation to protect.
“It’s not difficult to retrieve data from a discarded hard drive, even one you think you have erased,” says Mr. Adam. “Most companies don’t realize that their liability does not end when the equipment leaves their building, it keeps on going until the asset has been certified, by professionals, to be rendered inert environmentally and “clean from a data perspective.”
Privacy mandates (and the penalties for violating them) and regulatory pressures running the gamut from HIPAA to Sarbanes Oxley are upping the ante even further.
Michael Osterman, a veteran IT analyst and principal researcher for the Converge study, likens the rise of IT asset disposition to systems integration, customer relationship management and other technology trends that started as in house IT tasks and quickly became strategic issues impacting the entire business.
“This isn’t just about recycling,” says Osterman. “It’s about the very complex and risky business of managing the tail-end of the technology life cycle. That requires incredible logistical coordination but also the ability to ensure chain of custody as machines are demanufactured for reusable parts, turning one asset into potentially dozens, each bearing liability back to the original owner.”
Osterman says the smart money is on outsourcing ITAD to a large, specialized provider. “I don’t know of a single enterprise that has the systems, manpower or know-how to expend managing tons of their own e-waste every year. And calling the local recycler is not going to cut it for a larger organization, especially if you are a business with multiple locations.”
For a complete copy of the 2009 Converge ITAD Trends Report, visit http://www.converge.com/it_asset_disposition_trends_report.htm or call Converge at 978-538-8000.