Magazine Article | November 1, 2002

Avoid A Posthumous Attack Of The PC

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Careful, the outdated POS terminals you trashed last year might come back to haunt you. Whatever happened to those terminals, anyway?

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, November 2002
Matt Pillar

As if keeping business moving forward isn't risky enough, the outdated POS terminals you trashed last year might come back to haunt you.

Gartner (Stamford, CT) analysts say 40% of all enterprises don't formally track the comings and goings of their expired hardware assets, and less than 10% of all enterprises reconcile hardware assets against a formal asset database. The rapid pace of improvement in retail enterprise technology will eventually lead to a constant cycle of hardware acquisition and disposal. Compared to the trouble a company can get into on the disposal end, the expense and integration pains of acquisition sound easy.

Peace Of Mind Can Be Bought
I recently talked to Jim Keck, VP at Green-Tech Assets, Inc. (Cumberland, RI) about the risks and liabilities of careless IT equipment disposal. Companies like Green-Tech provide technology disposition services for corporations that seek fiscal, legal, and environmentally responsible disposal of retiring electronic assets. To put it simply, a retailer can find itself in lots of trouble if it tosses a bunch of old POS monitors into a Dumpster and waves bye-bye as the truck hauls them to the landfill.

Think about it. Improperly disposed computers cause pollution. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has laws that call for serious fines and penalties for the improper disposal of things like circuit boards, CRTs (cathode ray tubes), and batteries. In most states, it's OK for you to finally kick your family's old 486 to the curb. But if your company is ridding itself of hundreds or even tens of hundreds of old POS PCs, for instance, their disposal requires a bit more foresight. It's not common knowledge among average IT folks that under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the EPA classifies these materials as hazardous waste. The government takes this issue seriously. It's been known to track serial numbers found on trashed computing equipment to find and fine the original owners.

But there's more to consider than the risk of fines related to the environmentally incorrect disposal of computing equipment. Wantonly discarding outdated IT resources risks the security of any company (and customer) data that might still be stored in the equipment. It's also a potential source of software license infringement.

Retail IT departments, stretched by thin budgets and short on people, are particularly vulnerable. The challenge of maintaining control of asset disposal is compounded in chain store environments, where individual store managers must be versed on liabilities or risk getting the entire company in trouble. Fortunately, there are service providers who specialize in protecting you from asset disposal liability.

Selecting An Asset Disposition Service
Be careful about service companies that offer limited liability protection. Keck says that some "small print" contracts offer liability protection up to the amount at which the contract is valued, which is meaningless if the client's fines are hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the value of the agreement to protect it.

Look for a service that will cover the company, its parent company, its subsidiaries, its executive team, and its executive team's family pets. In other words, it's important to make sure that in today's lawsuit-crazy business climate, your business and its star players will be protected.

An expert liability protection partner will help you identify, analyze, plan, and track the risks you may incur during and after the disposal of your expired assets. In the event a liability should arise, it will also be well suited to control the damage. In the midst of an exciting rollout or new technology initiative, the depressing thought of what could go wrong as a result of the disposal of yesterday's technology is no fun at all. But it's necessary.