A starter’s guide on how to identify and retire storage hardware assets that are past their prime. Discussing why routine retirement and upgrading is essential and what factors to consider while designing the retirement process.

All digital systems run on on-premises or off-premise hardware assets like servers, storage, networks, and processors. Together, they allow input and output of data with lightning speed. But all such devices and equipment have a set lifecycle that ends in retirement and replacement.

Retirement may be necessary due to factors like diminishing performance, malfunction, or increasing costs. The scope of this article focuses on  storage hardware retirement, why it’s crucial, and how to go about it.

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Why is Routine Hardware Retirement Vital?

Storage hardware and assets, like all other electronic equipment and systems, have a set lifespan. Their efficiency and utility keep diminishing with time, and the cost of repair and maintenance also goes up.

Storage retirement, and subsequent recommission or disposition, is the process of removing a storage drive or equipment from service. This is the final part of asset management lifecycle, a concept applicable to most IT assets. In most cases, this step is taken in combination with upgrading existing storage assets that offer advanced features and better capacity.

Undertaking this step routinely ensures that the system’s performance and security are not compromised. Many enterprises ignore or postpone this critical process due to budget constraints or ignorance.

If organizations fail to replace hardware assets in a timely fashion, their malfunction negatively impacts enterprise cost and reputation.

However, the process entails careful planning and execution as migrating to new storage hardware should be done without disrupting existing workflows and applications. The steps to safely and efficiently retire hardware storage assets are often carried out as per comprehensive strategies. Furthermore, direct supervision from CTOs, IT leaders, and managers is warranted.

Identifying When to Retire Storage Hardware

Timing is of the essence in determining when to retire storage hardware equipment. If done too late, they pose a risk of loss, and if done too soon, they result in avoidable expenses. While there are sure shot ways to know if a storage asset has outlived itself, asking the following questions can be used as reliable indicators:

Cost: Many business leaders wrongly assume that delaying the retirement of old hardware or moving the upgrade will help them save costs. However, the decreasing utility and performance of aging hardware assets is more costly than upgrading to new equipment.

So, find out whether it is becoming too expensive to maintain and repair the storage hardware? Are the costs increasing with time? If so, are there cheaper alternatives with better offerings in the market?

Support: While most manufacturers provide a warranty for a few years after the purchase, it might be beneficial to check the available support scope. Determine if the equipment and parts are readily available and if the asset is still under warranty? If the company has stopped manufacturing the storage equipment altogether, it might be a good time to look for alternatives.

Compliance: Storage assets are protected under safety and compliance regulations, like under the law, or even the manufacturer’s terms and conditions. Older hardware generally poses a higher threat of malfunction and security risks, thereby not adhering to established compliance and terms.

Efficiency: If the equipment begins to malfunction, it is the surest sign that the hardware is past its prime. Similarly, keep an eye on whether the asset is unable to meet the growing business requirements. For instance, if the metrics associated with the hardware (like speed) drop drastically in a short period.

How to Retire Storage Assets: A Starter Guide

The following is a simple and actionable starter guide for businesses and IT managers to design a storage hardware retirement framework:

Create a migration plan: Once the assets to be retired have been identified, formulate a plan for retiring old storage equipment by prioritizing them as per their performance, importance, and sensitivity.

Get the required approvals: Be sure to obtain approvals from within and outside the organization, like C-suite, service providers, business heads, and warrantors. Make changes to the process as per their inputs and feedback. Finalize a suitable date and time for the process.

Inform all stakeholders: Inform the people who use the equipment regarding the changes and how their access or services might be affected during the process, if at all.

Backup or transfer all data: Create backups or transfer all data to secure storage hardware or the new equipment.

Deploy replacement storage: If the migration process doesn’t disrupt services and applications, deploy the replacement hardware before unplugging the old one.

Remove the old storage asset from the system: Turn off and remove the system’s hardware, following the due process and protocol.

Check the system’s performance: After deploying the new infrastructure, check the system’s status and availability comprehensively.

Post-decommission actions: IT leaders also need to decide what happens to the storage hardware once removed from the system? Will it be recommissioned or disposed off, and how will the data be sanitized? (More on this below)

Document the entire process: Ensure that the whole process is meticulously documented. This will record what action was taken, all the personnel involved, the entire lifecycle of the hardware, and the timeline. In addition to strengthening compliance, this reduces leaks and security threats.