What is “ITAD”?

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Every industry has its fair share of jargon and acronyms, and the IT industry is a major culprit. You’ve got your VARs (Value Added Resellers) and your OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). On our side of things, you might have seen us and other companies in our industry use the acronym “ITAD” and wondered what we were on about. What’s even more confusing is that companies both do ITAD and are an ITAD. There’s another layer of confusion added when you discover that ITAD covers certain services but not others. We thought we’d clear this up for you.


The basics

ITAD stands for IT asset disposal or IT asset disposition. Whichever word you prefer, it’s the same thing. It’s an industry built around the safe, secure and responsible disposal of unwanted or end-of-life IT equipment. The industry exists for a number of reasons. Firstly, any organisation, no matter the sector they operate in, has a responsibility to ensure their data is secure. This responsibility extends even after the end of technology’s useful life. Secondly, over the last decade or so, we have learned more and more about the damage electrical and IT equipment can have on the environment if not disposed of properly. It’s simply not economically viable for every organisation disposing of their IT equipment to do so properly by themselves. It requires specialist knowledge, experience, equipment and procedures. Hence ITAD companies exist to cover this.


What does ITAD cover?

A common misconception amongst people outside of the industry is that ITAD refers only to the recycling of IT equipment; i.e. the collection and subsequent refurbishment or breaking down of equipment to either be reused or disposed of. In reality, ITAD covers off a number of services in and around this, in order to ensure the completely secure disposal of assets.


Asset deinstallation

Presumably, if you’re disposing of IT equipment, the majority of the time it’s because you’ve made a new investment. To minimise downtime, you need to get the old equipment out and the new in as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes, it’s just not as simple as unplugging everything and chucking it in a van. It needs to be removed safely and correctly from the infrastructure and uninstalled to ensure it can’t be connected to again.



Whether or not you take care of deinstallation yourself, you need to get the assets from your premises to the ITAD facility. The provider will usually offer a flexible collection service, suited to fit around you, during which equipment is meticulously recorded onto GPS-tracked vehicles and transported to their facility where it will be again recorded off the vehicle and scanned into their system. This ensures that no assets go unaccounted for, and are safely and securely transported from A to B.


Secure data erasure and destruction

Once the ITAD has got your equipment on-site, they will determine which is data-bearing (i.e. storing data). Anything which is data-bearing will be securely wiped using an appropriate tool or piece of software. Data deletion simply isn’t enough – there are ways to recover it. Data must be completely wiped in order to ensure a breach doesn’t occur. Some ITADs will provide on-site data erasure, meaning they can physically or remotely carry out the data erasure process at your premises. Whether that’s for compliance reasons your end or so you are able to reuse the equipment, it ensures that you are remaining compliant with data legislation. This is particularly important with GDPR coming up.


Refurbishment and remarketing

As much as possible, ITADs aim to repurpose the equipment they displace. It’s better for both the economy and the environment if equipment can be effectively reused. This can take a number of forms: equipment may be refurbished and re-sold into new markets, or broken down and reused for spares and repairs. This resale value is also beneficial to you, as ITADs will often offer fair market or more than fair market rebates on any equipment you process with them. This can then be reinvested into new technology or other assets for your business.


Recycling and secure disposal

This is the part that covers off the actual disposal of the assets. Once data has been securely erased, and any reusable equipment has been identified, you are often left with equipment which can’t be reused, and needs to be broken down and disposed of. If this part of the process isn’t done correctly and by a licensed organisation, it can have a harmful impact on the environment as well as being potentially dangerous (batteries in particular are a fire hazard if not disposed of correctly). Many ITADs will operate a zero landfill policy, and utilise specialist equipment such as industrial shredders to break down equipment into its constituent parts to make sure it is recycled completely. This includes metals, precious metals (some components use gold) and plastics among other things.


Reporting and issuing of certification

This stage is important in order for you and your ITAD provider to demonstrate compliance with key legislation (such as GDPR), but also, more simply, so you can keep track of your assets and have full visibility of how they’ve been processed and where they’ve ended up. Most ITADs will be able to offer you a full audit report and certificate of destruction for your records. This should detail a description of the asset, any identifying features such as serial number, how it was processed, details of data erasure and whether the equipment was reused or recycled.


If you are looking for an ITAD partner, XPO IT Services have two decades of experience with secure disposal of IT equipment. We offer on and off-site data erasure and destruction, remarketing and full documentation and reporting. If you’d like to find out more or would like to book a collection, get in touch.


The author: Mark Cotterell
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