If you’re planning a cloud migration, there is certainly a lot to consider. For example, what will you do with all of your old equipment? Should you unplug it and throw it all away? Whoa! Not so fast. You need a data center decommissioning strategy to dispose of your old IT gear. 

Why? First, your old hardware potentially still holds confidential data. Second, throwing all of your old equipment in the garbage means it will inevitably end up in a landfill, polluting the environment. 

Here are some guidelines for decommissioning your old hardware properly and securely while protecting your company and the environment at the same time.

3 Steps for Proper Data Center Decommissioning

Step 1: Planning Out Your Project

Develop a Plan

Identify all relevant stakeholders that need to be involved in the project. Assign specific responsibilities to key personnel. Set up a channel of communication so everyone involved can stay updated for the duration of the process.

Create a Master Set of Go/No-go Criteria

Make sure all affected parties can weigh in on the tasks of the decommissioning initiative. Are there any last-minute risks to think through? If so, abort the project until your team has had a chance to prepare for any potentially negative scenarios.

Data Center Decommission

Consider the Right Time of Day

Due to bandwidth and personnel availability, it may be best to schedule a decommission after regular business hours. Having end-users logged off the network provides a buffer for unexpected issues that could arise, minimizing business disruption.


Create a checklist of tools needed for the project. For example, will you need forklifts, pallets, crates for servers, hoists, foam for packing, etc.? Having all of the proper equipment ensures the decommission goes safely and effectively.  

Log All Equipment Scheduled for Decommissioning

Create asset tags for everything you will be decommissioning. Develop an inventory list of everything to be taken offline so that it can all be accounted for later. This list should include routers, printers, switches, client PC’s, and other peripherals that will no longer be used company-wide.

Determine the Final Destination of Your old IT Hardware Assets

Do you plan to repurpose your old equipment? If none of it will be useful to your organization anymore, you’ll want to work with a reputable facility that can dispose of your e-waste properly.

Step 2: Decommissioning Your Equipment

Backup Testing

Begin running backup tests and simulations. Now is a perfect opportunity to test the effectiveness of your Disaster Recovery Plan. Verify all of your data is backed up and fully accessible. 

Disconnecting Equipment from the Network

Once your stakeholders agree, it’s time to cut power to your old equipment. Proceed with removing all of your racked hardware that is being decommissioned. Be sure to cancel any vendor maintenance contracts associated with this equipment. There’s no sense in paying for something you’re no longer using.

Step 3: Dispositioning Your Old Gear

Final Steps

Now that your data center is offline, it’s time to disposition all of your old gear. Carefully pack up and palletize your servers, switches, routers, and other hardware, so nothing gets damaged. At this point, contact your accounting department and make sure any servers or other assets are removed from your financial records. Also, all corresponding software and maintenance agreements should be canceled, recorded, and accounted for.

Identify a Reputable E-waste Vendor

Ethical and responsible data center decommissioning involves working with an organization that has your best interests in mind. They will perform a DoD level wipe, permanently deleting all of the data on your devices. This process enables them to recycle your old hardware, making it available for repurposing in other markets. Your old equipment can be valuable in schools, municipalities, or other under-funded organizations that don’t have budgets to buy new equipment. 

Another option for complete data removal is a process called ‘shredding.’ This process physically destroys the devices. Once completed, the e-waste vendor will provide you with a unique certificate of destruction of each device for your records.

Coordinate with other departments within your organization to transition other unused equipment. There may be some items your teams want to be shredded and others they want to be recycled. Communicate your wishes to your e-waste vendor so they can dispose of your old hardware accordingly. 

Note: Of course, all decommission projects are different. Each organization should have a data center decommissioning strategy based on their specific needs and the recommendations and requirements of its stakeholders.