Mitigating Risks When Decommissioning Enterprise Data Centers

Don’t Skip the Planning Phase – Mitigating Risks When Decommissioning Enterprise Data Centers


Decommissioning an enterprise data center is a large and complex project. Even small-scale data centers can take hundreds of hours and require specialized skills and expertise to fully decommission, and these types of projects carry significant risks that can quickly grow into serious challenges.

Mitigating these risks requires careful planning. Unfortunately, enterprises often face tight deadlines that make it difficult to dedicate time to the planning phase. Whether they are removing IT assets to meet the terms of a lease agreement or upgrading to new technologies to meet performance requirements, many are left scrambling to get the work done as quickly as possible.

This article will highlight a few of the key risks that enterprises face when initiating a data center decommissioning project before showing how a proper plan can save time, money, and resources down the road. To learn more, download our recent white paper: 5 Things Enterprises Should Know When Decommissioning a Data Center. 

The Risks of a Failed Data Center Decommissioning Project

Any time you are decommissioning a data center, no matter the size or scale of the facility, your organization faces some level of risk. IT infrastructure, in particular, is intricately interconnected and interdependent, further increasing the complexity of the project.

One of the most significant risks is that sensitive data is lost, stolen, or otherwise released. Personally identifiable information (PII), banking details, or social security numbers can be stored on even the most inconspicuous devices. One recent study found that 40 percent of devices resold in regular commerce channels contained PII that was relatively easy to access.

Enterprises should also ensure that any decommissioning project has a limited impact on ongoing business activities, operations, customers, and disaster recovery. Each enterprise will have its own acceptable limits, but any unplanned downtime can result in lost time, revenue, and reputation.

Finally, enterprises must follow all regulatory and compliance requirements, especially when dealing with sensitive data. Some organizations have been fined tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, restricting future growth and profitability over the long term.

Mitigating Risks – Plan Early, Plan Often

Faced with looming deadlines, pressure from senior executives, or a lack of understanding of the full scope of the project, many enterprises do not spend enough time developing a strategy. 

In most cases, the physical removal of the equipment is the easy part. But before that can happen, enterprises must have a clearly defined plan that includes key milestones, schedules, budgets, dependencies, and processes. Without a proper plan, a seemingly simple project can quickly grow into a logistical and operational nightmare.

First, it’s important to align the project with clearly defined strategic goals. Articulate why you are decommissioning the existing facility, how this decision moves you closer to your business goals, and what metrics you will use to measure success. Are you looking to lower your capital expenses, increase application performance, support a new product or service, or enhance your ability to serve customers?

Next, map out the schedule and timeline for each phase, including any major steps or interdependencies that could result in delays. Does the schedule seem achievable, or do you need to extend the deadline to something more realistic?

Finally, develop accurate and complete records of all equipment, cabling interconnection, IT infrastructure, and critical infrastructure such as power and environmental cooling. Determine who owns each asset and whether there is any residual value on owned assets that could be recovered to reduce the cost of the project. 

Don’t Start Decommissioning Your Data Center Without a Plan

Regardless of the size of your facility or the reason you are decommissioning, a clearly defined and agreed upon plan will keep the project on track, mitigate serious risks, and increase the likelihood of a successful project.

If working with an experienced partner, they will be able to guide you through the planning phase, identify key phases of the project, catch oversights or mistakes, and bring a process-driven approach that ensures all parts of the project are properly managed from start to finish. 

By spending a bit of extra time before the decommissioning project takes place, enterprises can align their technology with their strategic objectives and position their business for long-term performance and results. 

This article is part of a series on Decommissioning Enterprise Data Centers. To learn more about how you can mitigate risks and achieve a successful outcome, download our recent white paper: 5 Things Enterprises Should Know When Decommissioning a Data Center

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