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PC Refresh Equals PC Disposal

The pitfalls of desktop refresh projects

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SANS - Survey on application security programs

Workshop Earlier this week we asked what drives you to refresh or replace your PC and laptop estates and whether your projects involve simply the replacement of existing machines with new hardware and software or if you might be looking at implementing some form of desktop virtualisation. Now in all such refresh projects it is quite usual for the majority of attention to be focussed on acquiring suitable new equipment. The process of what to do with the old kit may only come as an afterthought.

The history of the management of the end of life desktop and laptop systems has been somewhat hit and miss. Some companies have tried to recycle via donating old kit to schools, charities or staff whilst some have simply thrown kit away.

Times have changed and now there is a need to address many issues that in the past may have been overlooked. Chief of these is the small matter of removing all “sensitive” information from the systems and ensuring that any data formerly held on the machine cannot be retrieved by the new user or any intermediaries. Deleting data sounds easy but it isn’t, especially as software exists to recover data from wiped or even formatted disks.

Beyond the data itself lays the minefield of application software licensing. If the desktop/laptop refresh project results in old machines leaving the company rather than being reused inside the organisation the question of application removal is likely to be one that needs careful consideration. And the answer to whether to uninstall each application depends not only on what is going to happen to the machine but also on the associated licensing terms and conditions.

As anyone unlucky enough to have read software licensing terms knows the precise requirements will vary agreement by agreement, application by application. It is more than likely that unless the system is running open source software that nearly all applications may need to be removed. There is even the possibility that the operating system itself may have to come off as well unless it was bundled or OEMed on the original machine at acquisition rather than being covered under some form of corporate or site license.

The effective use of management tools has a role to play here. Whilst more and more organisations are utilising management systems to help them maintain the operational readiness of machines via monitoring and remote management technologies, there are also tools that can help with working out what needs to be done at desktop end of life. Chief amongst these is some form of asset management/inventory discovery technology that can keep a record of each and every PC, what is loaded where along with information covering the licensing terms for each application deployed.

Such data is invaluable when it comes to planning desktop refresh projects. Then there is the question of actually ensuring that the recycling process, whatever it may be, conforms to any environmental legislation or corporate governance policies in place in the organisation. There is no doubt at all that managing the end of life for corporate PCs is now more complex, time consuming and expensive than ever and few organisations set aside adequate budgets and resources to administer it well.

So how do you handle the end of life of your PCs and laptops, at least those neither lost nor stolen? Do you recycle yourself, use a third party, give them away or format and dump? Do you attempt to get the vendors to take them back? And is it a profitable exercise? Can you make money reselling old kit on the second hand market?

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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