Data Security Drives Proper E-Waste Management, Survey Says

Converge and Osterman Research released the annual survey findings in their trends report on IT asset disposition (ITAD), revealing a steady increase in efforts by medium and large enterprises to securely manage millions of tons of discarded computer hardware. The report is free with registration.

Across the board, U.S. companies, according the "2010 Converge ITAD Trends Report," are thoroughly aware of the need for proper IT asset disposition, although strategies for dealing with this important issue vary.

Approximately 84 percent of respondents, an increase of 17 percent from the 2009 trends survey, stated that their organizations have controls in place to properly handle end-of-life IT assets.

For the second consecutive year, data security is the principal concern and primary driver of ITAD compliance efforts. Survey respondents ranked protecting data security as the most significant asset disposal objective, outpacing compliance with external environmental laws and – by nearly a full ranking point – compliance with their company’s own green IT strategy.

“Working with our Fortune 500 customers, we hear this concern virtually every day,” says Chris Adam, vice president of ITAD services for Converge. “Environmental concerns tend to grab the headlines, but the prospect of a data breach from discarded equipment is clearly the main issue keeping them up at night. We know that sustainability is a very real concern among business leaders, but we also know that data security represents more risk and is a tougher challenge in larger, more geographically diverse organizations.”

As practical concerns about digital fingerprints (data security) continue to dominate ITAD strategies, efforts to conform with green programs such as measuring carbon footprint may be waning. There is a surge in carbon footprint projects in 2010 – 33 percent of respondents, versus 21 percent last year, said their organizations measure their carbon footprint; but more organizations this year also said their organizations have no plans at all to measure carbon footprint (57 percent versus 54 percent).

The report shows a steady pace of investment in new computing platforms, especially mobile devices, hinting at a rise in economic confidence versus last year. This year’s report shows a 15 percent drop in the number of respondents saying they were delaying IT purchases or upgrades. Less hesitation leads to more IT investment in 2010.

“Continued enthusiasm for mobile platforms is spurring hardware upgrades,” says Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research. “Interestingly, the greater volume of laptop and hand-held devices within corporate inventories makes ITAD even more important. The sheer volume of devices dramatically increases the risk of data compromise when those devices are phased out and ultimately retired.”

There also appears to be a pent-up demand for IT disposition services. Even with virtually 100 percent awareness of ITAD as an issue, 23 percent of respondents stated that they place the materials in storage until a solution is found, and approximately 13 percent still dispose of old hardware by throwing it in the dumpster.

When implementing strategic IT programs, a significant number of enterprise organizations have identified the need for global delivery resources as a key component to their IT asset disposal program. Nearly two-thirds of the 2010 respondents rated a “global service delivery model” as being somewhat or very important to their organization.

Converge is a global supply chain partner for technology-driven companies. The organization’s three business divisions are dedicated to just-in-time distribution of electronic components, comprehensive reverse supply chain solutions and secure IT asset disposition. Founded in 1980, Converge is headquartered in Peabody, Mass.