Computerworld spoke to several large companies about how they dispose of old PCs.
It's an issue that has only just arisen for three-year-old casino and hotel operator Sky City. "We're such a young company that until now we haven't disposed of anything," says information systems general manager Damian Swaffield.
However, the company is starting to amass PCs that are too old to be of further use and Swaffield says over the next few months it will have to develop a policy on how to get rid of them.
That task will fall to a member of the IT team dedicated to security and disaster recovery.
"Her role is to implement procedures across a whole range of areas. We have invested quite heavily in the role and recently sent her to the US for a security conference. She will be responsible for developing a policy with management involvement."
Meanwhile, Sky City's commercial services division is considering the most appropriate home for PCs once they leave the company.
"If possible we'll sell to staff, and we're also asking our commercial services team to look at charitable organisations and schools. The problem with that is some of the PCs are so old they aren't even useful for what schools want to do."
Swaffield says Sky City has a policy that corporate information is backed up on the network and no company data is stored on PCs, but he realises that how closely it is adhered to can only be policed so far.
As one of the biggest Citrix thin-client sites in the country, insurance company NZI doesn't have to dispose of old PCs very often. "We still have people working on 486s around the traps so when we get rid of PCs they're pretty much dead," says IT manager Roger Martin.
"When we do we reformat and degauss the PCs. My understanding is that there is no data left on the system at all."
Sometimes the company gives old PCs to schools and usually sells them off internally. NZI recently decomissioned a couple of old Hewlett-Packard T500 Unix servers. "They were like boat anchors at the end," says Martin. "We trashed them."
Auckland City Council information technology and telecommunications manager Ian Rae says the council has an ongoing life cycle replacement programme. Old PCs are stored until a certain amount has built up and then they are cleaned.
"Auckland City Council has a policy of completely wiping the hard disk drives of all computers prior to their leaving our premises." He says because of the ease of recovering deleted data from disks ACC prefers to use software designed to totally erase all trace of the data. "There are several excellent shareware tools available that reset all bits where the files were stored to '0'. Once this is completed there is no known way of recovering this information."
The council then disposes of them in various ways. "Our bottom line is to ensure we recover any residual value of the asset. PCs are sold to staff and dealers, but we also donate to schools and aid groups. For example, last year PCs were donated for use in East Timor."