Data Centre Decommissioning Checklist

Your servers will eventually reach the end of their useful life. Shutting down your old IT equipment is a time-consuming and challenging process. Your data centre isn’t simply made up of metal and plastic components. Your business’s critical data – including financial and personal information – is stored on these devices. While the equipment’s value may differ, the data still contained within these devices may have a long enduring existence. One that might jeopardise your company’s future.

Decommissioning and Keeping Good Records

Before thinking about asset decommissioning, you’ll need to ensure that your existing documentation procedures are current. Documentation guarantees uniform execution of organisational processes, allowing everyone in the company to follow the same guidelines. In addition, it should be a regular practice for your IT team to document its work so that it may decommission assets later.

Why are regular asset inventory procedures necessary? 

Not only is good documentation beneficial to overall consistency and productivity, but there are various additional reasons to do so. For example, regular equipment inventory checks have always been vital, but with the growth of cloud, mobile, and IoT devices, it is more essential than ever.

It begins with IT Asset Management or Inventory Management, which involves gathering detailed hardware information on servers, client PCs, printers, switches, routers, IoT devices, and other peripherals.

The inventory will include such attributes as:

  • the device name
  • IP address
  • Vendor name
  • Device model
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Storage resources

An asset inventory includes software, the operating system version and any installed applications. Updating asset records and documentation is critical for your company’s operations, security procedures, and meeting compliance requirements with asset disposal.

At the very least, an effective asset management program will save time and money by preventing excessive asset acquisition and disposal activities. In addition, thorough inventory tracking is necessary to replace end-of-life equipment and replicate the resources required to fulfil workload commitments.

The value of an asset and the cost to maintain it throughout its lifecycle and during decommissioning will be evaluated with your records as the foundation for a business-driven asset management strategy that enables IT managers to assess an asset’s worth over time.

Analysis of the cash flow situation will indicate which assets should be replaced and which can be disposed of to save money. This is especially essential in today’s world when technological advancements are frequent and refresh cycles are shrinking.

Why a Data Centre Decommission?

A few factors may cause your data centre to shut down. Improved speed, efficiency, and cost have made it possible for you to replace your actual equipment with cloud services. It’s also great for people who don’t have a lot of time to invest in learning about different apps. However, because there are so many features and settings, it may be difficult for someone unfamiliar with the program.

Alternatively, virtualisation may be supplanted by colocation services for security, support, flexibility, dependability, cost savings, and easy disaster recovery.

It’s also probable that you’re entirely integrating data centres to house everything in one spot. Data centre deletions are frequently part of a more extensive relocation project.

No matter what your reason for wanting to decommission a data centre, you need to attempt your best to make things as simple as possible. This is why we’ve put up this handy list for anybody planning to decommission a data centre.

The Data Centre Decommissioning Checklist

Step 1: Planning and Discovery

Identify and engage all relevant stakeholders and decision-makers.

Set up a proper communication channel for anyone in your company who is a stakeholder or significant decision maker. Help ease the rest of the project and keep them updated every step. Also, assign any necessary responsibilities at this time.

Assign a project manager.

If no managers or executives in-house have extensive experience with data centre decommissions, it is typical to assign an external expert as the project manager. It is also not uncommon to utilise a logistics company in addition to an external project manager to act as an extension of the expert. Especially if your in-house staff is insufficient to handle the whole decommission project alone.

Develop a budget.

When using in-house labourers or hiring contractors, a decommission project typically exceeds the initial budget by a significant margin. However, when utilising an external service or an IT asset disposition (ITAD)/logistics partner (like ExIT Technologies), the decommission itself may be profitable depending on the value of your equipment and its destination.

When budgeting, it helps to have a qualified auditor provide a valuation of your hardware and a realistic estimate of potential value recovery.

Establish an estimated decommission timetable.

If you ask a data centre migration consultant how often projects get delayed, it’s not uncommon to hear a groaned reply. The fact is, it is almost impossible to account for every contingency.

The less prepared and less organised the organisation, the more likely delays will occur. This is why the planning and discovery phases are crucial: if everybody knows the environment like the back of their hand and there’s no guesswork about who’s doing what, the project should proceed reasonably smoothly.

Create a detailed scope of work.

Every process, safety procedure, and various stages of removal or demolition should be outlined extensively. In addition, you should know precisely who is responsible for what, where, at what time, and how.

Some questions to consider:

  • Are the contractors unplugging everything? Or are the system admins or the engineers?
  • Is everyone wearing insulated equipment? Or just those in charge of working with live lines?
  • Are you removing all the servers and relevant hardware before destroying the base infrastructures?

You’ll need to identify and answer questions like this and more to ensure the process remains consistent and fluid.

Create a general contact info list for all team members.

Your team members need to know the best methods to facilitate communication on any issues that may arise, including any external vendor contacts such as ISPs or contractors.

Regardless of how your organisation handles communication, during a critical project like this, the last thing you want is for the technician who found a crucial error at go-time to be unable to contact the right project manager. Avoid this unnecessary conflict!

Consider the right time of day to start a decommission.

For instance, for live decommissions (removing production equipment from the network), schedule the decommission for off hours with a buffer for unexpected circumstances.

Usually, this is more for a data centre migration scenario, but if coming off the network unexpectedly should prove problematic for another data centre connected to the currently decommissioning one. So it’s probably a good idea to schedule the final steps after regular business hours. 

Choose the Optimal Network Discovery Tool

For flat networks, agentless discovery tools are pragmatic and provide comprehensive data. Agentless discovery tools are impeccable when they can navigate through your entire network. However, depending on how your network grants access, it may take trial and error before you can genuinely configure a tool to capture your network environment.

Also, don’t hesitate to trial multiple discovery tools during the discovery phase. For example, there are many NetFlow analysers on the market. And depending on how micro-segmented your environment is, you may find specific tools that worked for other data centres are simply not a match for your domain.

Consider those proprietary databases, or third-party hosted tools, that may not give you access to raw data. Ensure that any device used will provide you with access to the raw data so that you may gain meaningful intelligence about your specific environment.

Frequently, doing in-house data analytics and segmenting the data provided by network tools allows you to derive insights that a tool would never be able to find. In addition, cross-referencing multiple segmented data sets may lead to errors that neither the device nor existing data or physical discovery would have uncovered.

Physical Discovery

Conduct a physical audit and hold specialists accountable to double-verify all inputs.

Human error is a fact of life; everybody makes mistakes. Having every physical audit item double-verified by other individuals or groups, the entire team is held accountable to ensure no stone is left unturned.

This may be excessive for smaller operations or projects with a more manageable volume of hardware to decommission. However, it is rare for a decommissioning project not to find unexpected discrepancies between the physical audit, the software discovery audit, and the existing CMDB/asset list.

If several significant discrepancies are uncovered, you may want to reevaluate the verification flow before moving further. Continuing a flawed workflow may only tangle the web of knowns and unknowns even further.

Compile a hardware map from the physical review and relate that map to your applications and data.

Now that you have an accurate map that was double-verified physically, cross-reference it with what you already have. The number of mismatches may surprise you.

At this point, you may find it unimportant from cost-benefit analysis to glean a more accurate picture of your environment depending on your organisation’s goals, budgets, and timetables. Regardless, most organisations will find it invaluable to conduct an expert review of all the operations undertaken thus far.

Updated Asset Map

Holding a final meeting of the minds before finalising an asset map is imperative. The differing levels of granularity serve to cover holes in the new map.

Just as the data centre operator may be the only one who notices a power supply issue with a row of servers, the network operations manager may be the only one who sees that one section of the environment has turned up points in the asset list wherever a micro-segmentation protocol was implemented.

Step 2: Decommissioning Stage

We’re almost there. Once your planning, processes, and procedures are in place, your team and any third-party vendors are ready to go – we can get started on the actual decommissioning process!

Run tests and simulations on all backups

For live scenarios in migration situations, this is especially useful. This is also an excellent chance to test disaster recovery plans and ensure that all equipment is operational.

Create a comprehensive backup just before decommissioning

Also, complete a last verification of the new backup to be safe!

Disconnect equipment from the network.

It’s time to remove from ACLs, subnets, and firewalls and turn off all equipment that will be decommissioned. In addition, now’s the moment to erase any drives that haven’t been erased and aren’t being reused or sold in the future.

Verify all documentation.

It’s critical to keep track of hardware erasures or terminations if you use third-party vendors or your internal team.

This includes complying with any security policy demands. In addition, you’ll want to leave a paper trail in the event of an audit to ensure that no one is overlooked. It’s not only the right thing to do but also serves as a model for the future should a similar activity be necessary.

Step 3: Disposition

Almost there! It’s time to distribute your data centre after it has decommissioned. This involves packing and moving equipment, as well as making sure any outdated contracts are terminated.

Altogether pack and pallet all hardware.

For optimum results, freight shipping must be improved. Pack servers and other hardware to be recycled with cut-to-fit polyethene foam for optimum practices.

Correspond with the financial department.

Check to see if any servers or other fixed assets have been removed from your financial records and that all software licenses (terminated or otherwise) have been recorded.

Coordinate with other departments to transition any hardware slated for repurposed use.

If you don’t have a partner, you might find it beneficial to perform a cost-benefit analysis with one. For example, before you go through the trouble of moving and repurposing your equipment elsewhere within the organisation, you can determine whether liquidating current assets and purchasing new equipment is more cost-effective in the long term.

Celebrate. Your decommission is complete!

That is fantastic! That’s done and dusted! Of course, you’ll need to review your checks and balances to ensure nothing has been overlooked. But if you’ve been following our instructions, there’s a good chance you’re in the clear!

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