Over the past two years, demand for devices and connectivity to support the switch to the distributed workplace has skyrocketed. Organizations were often forced to quickly purchase new and refurbished devices to accommodate employees working from home. Now that many companies are bringing employees back to the office, the â€œping pongâ€ from office to home poses some new challenges for enterprises. What will they do with the IT assets to equip their remote workforce? And what happens to the corporate and the customer data that might reside on these devices after months, or even years, of saving files to desktops, etc.?Â
Companies must develop strategies and policies to address these issues sooner rather than later. Organizations’ updated asset management policies should also consider the dire consequences of dumping used IT assets into landfills, including the negative impact on the planet and climate change.Â Â
E-waste Has Reached Crisis Proportions
As the conversation and action heat up on global climate change, e-waste is an often overlooked issueOpens a new window . However, e-waste, which includes everything from desktop and laptop computers to old gaming devices and remote controls, is reaching crisis levels. A record 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2019, an increase of 21% from the previous five years, according to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020Opens a new window . The report also predicts global e-waste will reach 74 Mt by 2030, almost doubling in just 16 years.Â
Solving the e-waste issue will involve a global collaboration between governments and private industries to make a dent truly. One example of action on e-waste on a governmental level is the EU’sOpens a new window September 2021 law that will require a common charger for many portable electronic devices. Once enforced, mobile phones, tablets, keyboards, etc., will all require the same type of charger, the USB-C.Â
However, companies can also be good corporate citizens and institute better policies for dealing with end-of-life assets responsibly, including not dumping broken and outdated hardware into garbage dumps. Organizations can address their data and IT asset lifecycles by focusing on three key areas as employees embark on the â€œGreat Transitionâ€ back to the office:
1. Take a sustainable approach to extend the life of devicesÂ
Many companies believe destroying assets is the best and least expensive option due to a lack of knowledge about more sustainable alternatives. By creating policies with e-waste top of mind, companies can contribute to the circular economy by donating used but operational devices to schools and non-profits or reselling used equipment for its components, once securely sanitized of all corporate and customer data.Â
In light of the e-waste crisis, the corporate culture of â€œtake, make, consume, disposeâ€ must change. In many cases, perfectly functional devices and equipment are physically destroyed due to a lack of awareness of alternative options, including data sanitization and e-recycling. But re-using equipment internally or donating that equipment is important from an environmental and social impact standpoint. Recycling hardware provides non-profits, schools, and other organizations with affordable computer equipment and creates sustainable jobs in the refurbishment industry.
2. Build a culture of improved cyber hygieneÂ
As companies create a top-down, ground-up corporate culture that embraces being â€œgood corporate citizens,â€ they should also address the security implications of end-of-life device processing. When donating, reprocessing, or recycling used IT assets, it’s imperative that the data on that device is permanently and irreversibly removed to avoid the worst-case scenario â€“ a data breach.Â
Businesses in highly regulated industries, such as finance and healthcare, which must comply with myriad rules and regulations, should do everything they can to safeguard valuable and sensitive business and consumer data. One way these organizations can better manage the asset and data lifecycle is to appoint an executive to oversee the process. According to one of our studiesOpens a new window , 47% of large global enterprises created roles responsible for implementing and ensuring compliance with e-waste policies to deal with e-waste issues generated from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enterprises must align their data and e-waste management policies, being more cognizant of how a company-wide culture of improved cyber hygiene can improve the organizations’ security quotient but also help to foster more sustainable business practices.
3. Update data management policiesÂ
One unfortunate consequence of the largely pandemic-driven work-from-home era is that enterprise data is much more likely to be spread across multiple devices and stored in many more places, including the cloud, home, and office computers, tablets, etc. Now that many workers are back at their desks, with others still working mostly from home or on the road, companies should accept that work-from-home, or from anywhere with WiFi, is here to stay. Companies must learn to balance the mobile, agile workplace with a renewed sense of urgency to enforce stringent data retention and management policies, with security concerns first and foremost.
As companies grapple with the extra PCs, laptops, and other devices purchased during the pandemic, they must also consider the chain of custody of these assets. A missing or stolen laptop could compromise compliance with data privacy rules and regulations and in the case of a data breach, exposing the organization to the potential for fines, or worse. Creating a policy that requires every device â€“ whether it be scheduled for reuse or for disposal â€“ to be erased and sanitized of all corporate data remotely, before it leaves the employee’s home office, is one that will provide companies with peace of mind that whatever data was on the device is now unrecoverable. Once an asset is sanitized, a certificate of erasure ensures the data chain of custody is intact, even if it falls off of a FedEx or UPS truck.
By prioritizing sustainability as a key component of asset and data lifecycle policies and management, companies can be good corporate citizens and join the fight in what’s becoming an unmanageable e-waste crisis. In turn, organizations’ used devices will replenish the circular economy supply chain, funneling much-needed computers and laptops to schools and organizations in underserved communities.
Which best practices have you considered for secure and sustainable device IT and data asset life cycle management? Tell us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We love it when you share!