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How your data center decommissioning process & timeline should look

- 3 minute read

As more and more businesses scale their operations, introduce more devices for users and move towards cloud-based operations, the proliferation of data centers will continue. However, at a certain point, a data center may need decommissioning. This can be motivated by several reasons. For example, when cloud infrastructure replaces physical devices, assets potentially need relocating and centralizing or old devices need destroying and replacing.

From planning all the way to decommissioning and final disposition, a data center decommissioning project requires a great deal of expertise, patience and experience — alongside the knowledge of the consequences of poor data handling. 

What goes into a successful data center decommissioning process?

Regardless of the reason, every single data center decommissioning process needs approaching with accuracy and careful planning. Decommissioning processes require the following to be successful:

  • On-site services: This may include removing racked equipment, asset inventory tagging, data sanitization or destruction, equipment list, decommission asset reconciliation and asset remarketing.
  • Asset processing: Assets can be valued and remarketed, generating new revenue streams for businesses. This can be done with the help of a specialized IT asset disposition (ITAD) provider that can accurately harvest and remarket those materials. The best ITAD providers have access to resale markets driven by relationships with hyperscale data center companies, allowing them to determine where prices are best.
  • Sustainability: A key consideration for organizations looking to decommission data centers is sustainability. IT is one of the largest causes of carbon emissions, so including material recycling in the decommissioning process is of utmost importance to limit climate impact. Including a recycling process that can repurpose assets into reusable materials maximizes the lifetime value of IT assets — a benefit for both the company involved and our natural environments. 

It can be the case that large-scale decommissioning projects are confusing. Countless assets, deadlines, missed SLAs, poor record of disposition performance, potential data breaches through misplaced assets all contribute to costly and dangerous outcomes. So what does a proper decommissioning process look like?

Below is an example decommissioning timeline for perusal. While there may be very specific contingencies that apply to an individual business, this timeline does act as a general guideline for a wide range of companies approaching data center decommissioning. 

A data center decommissioning timeline example

Eight months before

Around eight months prior to completion, asset tagging should begin. This requires an organization to understand which assets need decommissioning or otherwise dealt with. To discover the best practices for asset tagging, read this blog post

Seven months before

At seven months, asset planning takes place. Many organizations will already have an idea of this, but asset planning is where decisions regardings which assets are to be remarketed, destroyed, relocated or liquidated are made.

Six months before

Depending on the agreements, discoveries and planning made in the first two stages, six months prior to completion is a good opportunity to create a six-month timeline. It should include milestones and objectives which can be used to help keep a decommissioning process on track. 

Five months before

Now it's time for the physical work to begin. At five months, organizations should begin wiping, shredding and properly disposing of the assets, legacy equipment and media chosen for disposal. There are several considerations for data disposal and sanitization. Read about them here.

Four months before

With four months to go, the decabling and packing of servers and cabinets should begin. In most cases, this will continue for around three months.

Three months before

At this point, any leased equipment should be returned. Additionally, if an organization is working with an IT asset disposition partner, this is a good opportunity to check whether that partner is hitting agreed-upon goals.

Two months before

If there's a new data center being moved into, the assets that will continue to be used should be relocated there at the two-month mark. Any remaining assets that don’t belong in this category should be shredded. Any liquidated assets should be ready to leave the current facility. 

One month before

At this point, every major project objective should be completed. This final month should be used to take care of any remaining small tasks. 



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