The old, new green approach Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

Every enterprise has inventories of old, unused and outdated computer equipment sitting around. Some might be CPUs that are inadequate for today’s business applications. Others are obsolete monitors or printers that simply lack the speed and reliability to function in today’s go-go-go office environment.

Nobody likes to just toss out appliances. And, in some jurisdictions, it is illegal.

Smart Business spoke with Greg Jacobs, vice president of global logistics at Pomeroy IT Solutions, Inc., about what to do with used computer equipment.

How do the green guidelines of reduce, reuse and recycle apply to computer equipment?

That’s a great question because a lot of people will associate following ‘green’ principles with end-of-life computers. It actually applies to all computing assets from the time they are purchased through end-of-life. The level of technology for end-of-life computer equipment can vary widely between companies depending on how aggressively they deploy new technology. It can also vary by types of users within companies.

For example, a two-year-old, high-end computer used by engineers may become obsolete because they need more computing power. When a new asset is purchased, the old computer can be redeployed to an administrative user, becoming a tremendous performance improvement while eliminating the need to purchase a new computer.

Assets that are unusable also present opportunities to follow green guidelines because they may have value to other companies, charitable organizations or schools. A fair number of these assets still have computing life and can be resold or donated. Also, some equipment can be resold and broken down for parts. For assets that aren’t useful to anyone, proper disposal is critical.

Can't old equipment just be thrown away?

No, there are EPA regulations against that. Computer equipment that is thrown away can end up in landfills. As it breaks down, it releases toxins into the soil and environment. The key is to establish a relationship with an EPA-certified disposal organization that has invested in the infrastructure to properly break down old technology into the basic components, remove the toxins and dispose of the remaining debris. Depending on the type of equipment, there may or may not be costs associated with proper disposal because there are some components, like precious metals, that can be removed that have value.

Is there a trade-in market for computers?

Actually, trade-ins have always been available from certain companies and channels of distribution. With the increased focus on being green, you’re seeing more offerings develop from original equipment manufacturers and others. Being focused on green guidelines around computing assets represents good, sound business. The focus on green strategies will help all of us develop new and better product and service offerings while protecting our environment.

How can a company implement some of these principles?

It’s dependent on factors such as the size of the company, how aggressively technology is used, and how decentralized or distributed a company is. It’s not one size fits all, but by understanding how employees leverage technology in their jobs, redeployment opportunities can be uncovered.

For larger organizations with distributed facilities, there are companies that can help with the challenges of redeployment. There are economic considerations with some of these decisions, so it’s important to understand each client to determine the proper green strategy. By asking the right questions and using established processes, large clients can save millions of dollars by properly managing the overall life cycle of their computing assets and applying green guidelines.

How long should equipment be kept?

Storage is always a consideration as you try to establish your approach. Another consideration is that people may store equipment for backup reasons. These uncontrolled computing assets are underutilized and exposed to theft, which can pose a security threat because software licenses and data probably reside on the computer’s hard drive.

Best practices incorporate processes that minimize this type of storage and some level of centralization of the assets for use by everyone, not a select few that know about them. With centralization, proper handling processes can be put in place to reclaim software licenses and remove company data. It also makes it possible to properly manage the age of computing assets and to establish relationships with companies that can help properly broker, donate or dispose of equipment following green guidelines.

What other considerations are there?

For smaller organizations, a lot of this can be handled within their office by finding proper storage space and establishing some processes. Larger companies have other considerations such as technology standardization, procurement and financial processes, shipping, software licensing, data security and the overall impact on support. For most companies, though, thinking green not only protects the environment but also has a profound impact on the bottom line. It’s well worth the effort.

GREG JACOBS is vice president of global logistics with Pomeroy IT Solutions, Inc. Reach him at gjacobs@pomeroy.com.