A Guide to Data Destruction and Decommissioning Data Centers

Oct 2, 2019 | Data Security

The advent of the information age has brought about numerous advancements that have improved human lives significantly.

New products and technologies are coming out left and right and they have forever changed the way people handle different aspects of their daily lives. Everything from the way people communicate to the manner in which they work has been altered in some form or fashion by technological innovations.

There’s no denying that humanity is better off thanks to its many advancements, but bundled together with the benefits are challenges and problems that must be dealt with properly.

In this article, you will be able to learn more about some of the challenges that have emerged due in large part to the dawning of the information age. To be more specific, you’ll be able to understand more about data and how disposing of it can be an ordeal unto itself because of the electronic components involved.

Data destruction and decommissioning data centers are particular topics that will be discussed.

Later on, some solutions to the problems that stem from reliance on electronics will also be presented.

Let’s get started.

What Is Data Destruction?

Deleting data is something you probably do on a regular basis. When your smartphone is running low on space, you likely go into your gallery and see if there are some pictures you can delete. If there’s still not enough space available, you may check out your file library and see if there are podcasts there that you can erase.

At this point, the deleted files will no longer show up on your phone, but they have not been completely wiped away. Backups of the files in question were likely created previously and by following specific steps and/or using certain types of software, it may still be possible to retrieve the deleted files.

The point here is that deleting a file does not mean that it is completely gone for good.

You will need to do something more drastic such as destroying your data. Unlike with simple deletion, destroying your data means that your files will no longer be accessible or readable. They will essentially be wiped away.

Why Is Data Destruction Necessary?

For those wondering why it may be necessary to carry out a process such as data deletion, the main reason is security.  

Some people use their computers to store sensitive financial information or info about their identity. If you’re one of those people, you probably don’t want anyone snooping around your discarded belongings to gain access to those important pieces of information.

Data destruction ensures that all of those bits of personal information will be destroyed along with your computer or even your smartphone.

Companies also make use of data destruction methods often to protect themselves. Corporate espionage is still a concern for many businesses, especially those in highly competitive industries.

By destroying data, companies don’t have to worry about their databases being compromised by some rogue ex-employees.

How Is Data Destruction Carried Out?

There are different methods of data destruction available to individuals and companies and they are:

  • Overwriting data
  • Degaussing
  • Physically destroying data storage units

The first method, overwriting data, works by essentially using up the space previously occupied by old data to hold new bits of information.

White Canyon Software notes that the method is similar to how people could basically create a new VHS tape by recording over the content the tape previously stored back in the day.

Simply overwriting data once should suffice, but in corporate settings, companies may opt to do it more times to ensure that the old data are gone for good.

Degaussing is another method often used for the purposes of destroying data. This method features the use of magnets. The magnets are used to destroy the storage unit housing the targeted data.

Going with this method can effectively ensure that the target data will no longer be readable or accessible, but it also means that the storage unit or hard drive itself will not be used moving forward. If all you want to accomplish is to destroy the data by any means, this method should work for you.

The last way to completely wipe data is to physically destroy the unit housing the bits of information. Various methods can be used to destroy a data storage unit. It’s important to be as thorough as possible to guarantee that the data will no longer be accessible.

Again, there are valid reasons why people or companies may want to destroy their data, but it is important to point out that there are some issues with the methods that are used. Namely, degaussing and physically destroying the storage units can produce electronic waste that will be difficult to dispose of properly on your own.

Why Is Decommissioning Data Centers Important?

Data centers are crucial to the day-to-day operations of many businesses. Bigger companies in particular usually have to work with mountains of data regularly. Understandably, they want to have all that data secured in a protected space and that’s where the data center comes in.

Companies have to create detailed plans regarding their data centers because they must be kept in a controlled and highly secured location. There’s also a constant need on the part of companies to keep their data centers up to date. For all those reasons, companies have to invest heavily in their data centers so that they can continue to be assets that provide useful benefits.

So, why then would companies ever consider decommissioning data centers?

Well, there are actually some good reasons for them to do so, as pointed out by Preferred Power Source.

One reason is that companies can improve their performance by decommissioning their data centers.

There is often a limit placed on how much electronic equipment can be upgraded. As soon as that limit is reached, holding on to and maintaining the pieces of equipment in the data no longer makes sense. They may even actively hold a company’s performance back if they continue to be used.

Running an old data center stocked with outdated equipment and a new one with more modern machinery simultaneously is not a good way of conducting business for any company. For that reason, companies simply opt to cut their losses and shut down the older facility.

Decommissioning data centers also benefit companies from a security standpoint.

When it comes to electronic equipment, items that have become outdated almost immediately become more vulnerable to security breaches. That’s just how things work.

By continuing to rely on those older electronics to house their data, companies are taking a huge risk. Bad actors with more sophisticated tools could enter a company’s database and steal valuable bits of information without ever being detected.

To put it simply, using old equipment in data centers is unwise for companies. Instead of stubbornly continuing to rely on them, the better move is to invest in decommissioning data centers that have become obsolete.

Also, it is absolutely essential for companies to move forward with decommissioning data centers. Refraining from using them any longer is not enough. Those items may still be holding on to data that your company uses. They cannot just be shut down and left alone.

Pieces of data center equipment that are no longer used must be correctly disposed of and the data they’re holding properly destroyed. Otherwise, they can still be points of vulnerability for a company.

Decommissioning data centers also benefit companies because it helps them recoup some of their initial investment. Professionals working on the task of decommissioning will be able to identify equipment that can still be of service to the companies. The companies can then go ahead and continue using them in their upgraded data centers.

It’s often true that decommissioning data centers will not allow companies to get back the majority or even just half of their initial investment, but doing so can still make it possible for them to save some money.

To recap, decommissioning data centers is a good move for companies because:

  • It improves their performance in the long run
  • It enhances security
  • It makes it possible to recoup some of the initial investment

How Is Decommissioning Data Centers Done?

There are several steps involved in the decommissioning process, according to Network World.

Companies can start by hiring professionals to handle the task of decommissioning. After that, the professionals will usually do an inventory of the assets present in the data center and map dependencies.

Conducting inventory is an important step because it enables companies to identify any assets that may still be of use to them. It also lets them know which specific pieces of equipment need to be replaced once the new data center is up and running.

Mapping the dependencies in the older data center can also turn out to be useful as it gives companies a better idea of how to improve upon their previous facility

The process of decommissioning also typically involves removing the contents of the data center and destroying data that companies no longer need. That’s not all however.

Properly recycling the pieces of electronic equipment is also a must and that is easier said than done.

The Importance of E-cycling

Whether a company asks for data to be destroyed or for a data center to be decommissioned, there will likely be electronic waste produced at some point. Just as people are urged to recycle the waste they produce at home, companies and individuals alike are also encouraged to take part in the process of e-cycling when handling their older electronics.

Recycling and e-cycling are basically the same thing, except the latter is focused more on electronic items.

The need for people to recycle their electronic goods has never been more important. Many people may not be aware of this, but the rate at which electronic waste is being generated is already staggering.

Per this article from The Balance Small Business, around 41.8 million tons of electronic waste was produced worldwide in 2014. That’s a big problem for a few reasons.

First off, generating that much waste means that resources are not being utilized properly. By simply failing to recycle cell phones, estimates suggest that Americans get rid of around $60 million worth of silver and gold annually.

Recycling older laptops can also help significantly cut down on energy consumption. Specifically, recycling even just one million laptops could conserve enough energy that can then be used to power up more than 3600 homes in the United States alone.

Failing to recycle electronics in the right way is also having a real impact on the environment. Apart from contributing to the increased amount of hazardous materials in landfills, not recycling electronic goods also leads to increased consumption of natural resources that could have been used in other ways.

Soon enough, health problems may also emerge from the excessive amount of electronic waste being produced.

The amount of electronic waste present in the world can no longer be ignored. The issue of electronic waste must be addressed as soon as possible. You can do your part by making e-cycling a part of your waste disposal routine.

Why E-cycling Is Best Left to the Professionals

Similar to data destruction and decommissioning, e-cycling is something that you will be better off leaving up to the professionals.

They can quickly identify the electronic components that may still be of use to your or your company, thus saving plenty of time and money. Companies that specialize in handling electronic waste may also be able to offer supplemental services such as data destruction that you may end up needing.

On top of all that, entrusting your electronic waste recycling needs to the professionals is also a good move because it saves you from the task of navigating specific laws. According to How Stuff Works, laws governing the disposal of electronic waste can vary from one state to another.

You could get in trouble for breaking the law even if you unwittingly did so. It’s better to err on the side of caution and simply call on the professionals to take care of e-cycling for you or your company. The fees that come from doing so are small prices to pay in exchange for knowing that your electronic waste is being handled responsibly and correctly.


Data destruction, decommissioning data centers, and e-cycling can all be complex tasks, but they are necessary for your security, the health of your finances, and the wellbeing of the planet. It’s understandable if you are hesitant to invest in those practices at first, but they can be immensely beneficial in the long run. Contact CJD with any questions you may have or to learn more about our services.