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Proper IT asset disposition (ITAD) is a high priority for data center service providers, which tend to have a shorter equipment lifecycle than other companies. Since a single data center can have hundreds of thousands of square feet containing as many as 500 racks of hardware, asset management is a challenge and foremost on the minds of officials at QTS Data Centers.
"In our business, [the hardware] lifecycle is three years on the far end," Jean-Marc Porson, channel manager for the Eastern U.S. at QTS, said. QTS provides colocation and cloud services in addition to data center services, "so IT asset disposition is something that is extremely critical for our business and for our customers. Because assets need to be disposed of properly and then harvested, if at all possible, you need to have a company that knows what it's doing to recycle properly," while keeping data secure and destroyed in a way that is not recoverable. "It's not an option for us to ever compromise our own data or our customers' data."
Because QTS wants to provision the "most current and robust hardware available" in its data centers, the company disposes of all physical assets that comprise the IT infrastructure -- from servers to network switches to storage arrays -- every two to 2 1/2 years, he said.
"We do a lot of bare-metal provisioning, or managed hosting, which means a customer will come to us and say, 'I'm an insurance company that's highly regulated and stores very sensitive information and … we don't want to share infrastructure with anybody, so we need a private cloud,'" Porson explained.
Teaming for IT asset disposition services
QTS began working with ITAD provider Apto Solutions two years ago on hardware it decommissions in its own inventory, as well as for customers' hardware when it reaches the end of its lifecycle.
"Cloud may be nebulous but there's all this hardware serving up all this horsepower," he said. "When we need things picked up, sold or destroyed they're able to do all of that."
Jean-Marc Porsonchannel manager, eastern U.S., QTS
QTS selected Apto after looking at other ITAD companies that included Avnet and Presidio Inc. Porson said QTS wanted an ITAD provider that was on the smaller side, but would have the reach and footprint to extend its services to QTS' data centers, 14 in the U.S. and 25 global.
Apto is "small enough that we get white glove service" and "one number to call, one throat to choke if anything goes wrong, which is quite rare," he said.
The two companies also work with a lot of the same customers in the same vertical industries, Porson noted. Apto works primarily in the financial services, value-added reseller (VAR), OEM and tech verticals, CEO James Kilkelly said.
Apto offers a variety of a la carte services that are tailored to the client, Kilkelly said. They include decommissioning, secure data wiping, valuation and resale of assets. If, for example, Apto recycles equipment worth $500,000, the company takes 30% of the revenue share and gives 70% to the client, or the proceeds can be applied to a customer's bill.
The company’s AptoPulse platform "allows us, from cradle to grave, to understand ... the assets in an organization" and what needs to happen when they are disposed, Kilkelly said.
ITAD services: The importance of certification
Certification was of paramount importance to QTS, especially since it has several clients in heavily regulated industries. Apto has various ISO and National Association for Information Destruction certifications, Kilkelly said. The company is audited on a regular basis by equipment manufacturers and financial organizations to ensure data is properly wiped and has a certification of destruction.
Healthcare companies and financial institutions often store and move sensitive data like patient records, social security numbers and other highly personal data.
"These companies not only have to be compliant when they're going about their daily business, they have to remain compliant even after that hardware and systems they use reach the end of their useful lives and have to be recycled and/or destroyed," Porson said. "Being able to attest that we/they have these reclamation and recycling matters well in hand, which we do by partnering with Apto, is absolutely critical to maintaining compliance throughout the entire lifecycle of the installation."
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