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How to Securely Dispose of Your Servers

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Sooner or later, you’re going to need to get rid of your servers. Whether you’ve outgrown your old servers or you’re scrapping the whole architecture and moving to the cloud, you’ll need to somehow dispose of those beloved machines.

Once the decision has been made, come up with a strategy that’s both secure, since you don’t want other people accessing your old data, and safe for the environment and for anyone who may come in contact with the old machines.

Case Study

Back in 2006, a man named Mark Morris bought servers that had been previously been used by Ernst & Young. When he booted the machines, he allegedly found personal and financial data still sitting on it. He contacted the company to inform them that he had their data – and that they would need to pay to get it back from him.

Years of wrangling in the courts followed. The moral of the story? You don’t know who will get their hands on your server. This makes deleting your data and wiping the hard disk an absolute necessity.

How To Ready Your Servers for Disposal

Ready to toss out old machines? Here’s where to start.

1. Kill the Accounts

First, be sure all accounts are deleted. Whether it’s a gmail or Facebook account you can access from any browser, or a software application only existing on that machine, make sure you sign out, delete and otherwise complete erase your accounts’ existence.

Second, keep the server plugged into the network to see if any complaints arrive from your users or from any of the applications they run on their computers. If there’s no one screaming blue murder for a week, you can safely assume the server’s removal will not cause any crashes.

2. Shut it Down

Take a few more days and see if there are any responses to your having fully shut the server down. Again, this is just to make sure there are no aftereffects of removing the machine. Apart from your users, keep an eye on your Active Directory domain controllers and antivirus command machine to see if any issues arise.

3. Encrypt Everything

There is always the chance that someone using advanced data recovery software could recover your data. But if you beat them to the punch by encrypting your data, their attempt will be futile. This way, even if they do manage to recover anything from your hard disks, they won’t be able to make any use of it.

4. Erase it All

Now, you’re ready to wipe your disks clean. Simply formatting your hard drives won’t do the trick, but start there. Format the machine a few times to make sure nothing is left. Then it is time to hunt for a good hard disk erasing software that can do the job securely. Follow the recommended instruction provided by the deletion tool’s makers to erase the data a couple of times.

5. Destroy the Disk

If you intend to destroy the server and not donate or sell it, you can go ahead and physically destroy the hard disk. Remove it from the machine and go nuts with a good drill. Hammers and sledges also do the trick, but they will need extra effort and you will need to be absolutely sure that the platters inside are shattered.

Or, you can always look for professionals to handle this job if you’d rather have someone else take care of the destruction. Find a respected and reputable server disposal company and ask them to destroy the computer for you. Once you hand it over to them, they will be in charge of complete destroying your old machine.

Recycle

The considerate way to go would be to donate your old server to someone or some organization that can make use of it. There are always small businesses, charities, or education centers willing to take the machine off of your hands.

Alternatively, you could give your server to a recycling company and they can also help take it off of your hands, either reusing the entire server or using individual parts.

Don’ts

Before we part, we would like to mention some things you should absolutely avoid when looking to get rid of your old servers.

  • Don’t dispose of your server in a dump
  • Don’t ask strangers to take it off of your hands
  • Don’t try to take it apart yourself

Though these may sound like common sense tips, there are tons of people unaware of the damage they could cause by improperly disposing of a server. All it takes are a few simple steps to ensure safe, secure disposal of your old hardware.

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