The speed at which technology changes is phenomenal, becoming ever more flexible, mobile and – critically for those holding the purse-strings of tightening school budgets – cheaper.
Gone are expensive servers with ongoing support contracts, and in their place are flexible, cloud-based solutions and devices for schools, such Google’s Chromebooks, which come with a free, easy to use management system for educators.
But whatever technological shift you’re seeing at your school, you’ll likely be left with redundant hardware as part of the change. Below are a few questions to help you consider how to dispose of such technology safely, with minimal costs involved.
What’s most eco-friendly?
IT-related equipment contains numerous hazardous pollutants, such as the lead content in CRT monitors and batteries. Many companies will offer to take away your old computers, but if they don’t have appropriate accreditation you run the risk of disposing of your equipment illegally. Equipment disposed of via non-accredited firms can end up anywhere in the world, and could potentially damage your name and reputation.
To avoid any problems, seek out companies that handle such waste in accordance with two particular EU directives: WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances).
What about data destruction?
With the recent introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation.
It’s never been more critical to keep your data confidential – an important consideration when disposing of redundant hardware. When choosing a technology disposal specialist, ask them for assurances that your data will remain secure from the moment their driver collects your equipment, and that this will continue at their secure location where the data (often on hard drives) will be destroyed.
Data removal should be a forensic wiping procedure, eliminating all traces of data from hard drives, and be carried out by a disposal company whose work complies with ‘CESG Infosec Level 5 HMG’ approved standards. The disposal company should be able to present you with the relevant certification, a copy of which should be retained by the school as a permanent record of disposal. I’d recommend writing down the serial numbers of any hard drives and asking for these to be signed for when handing over the equipment.
How costly is hardware disposal?
In short, free! While it’s often the case that what you’re seeking to dispose of has little value in its current form, the raw materials inside may still hold some market value. There are specialist companies, such as PRM Green Tech, which work with extractors to remove any items of value, and in turn generate profits from the transaction. Avoid any companies that promise large returns upon you handing over redundant hardware, but can’t present evidence of meeting industry standards or holding any professional accreditation.
Safe and effective hardware disposal will usually be your best option, but there can occasionally be a better alternative. Installing newer operating systems on old hardware is a practice that’s becoming ever more popular, especially with the growth of cloud-based systems that don’t require a lot of on-board hardware to work.
Neverware, for example, is a desktop operating system specifically designed for schools wanting to extend the useful life of their old hardware. Billed as a ‘CloudReady’ product, it’s based on Google’s Chromium OS, which shares the same open-source architecture as Chrome OS, and is well worth checking out before throwing those old laptops away!
Gary Spracklen is headteacher at The Prince of Wales School, Dorchester, a former Digital Educator of the Year and a member of the government’s Educational Technology Action Group; follow him at @Nelkcarps