October 8, 2010

Data security ranks number one

Ensuring data security is the number one objective of IT managers when it comes to IT asset disposal. This is no surprise to us, as the world's media focuses on privacy and data breaches, waiting for their next big story. The topic is hot. Organizations found to have unwittingly exposed customer records risk having their reputation tarnished and customer loyalty shattered.

A Google search on "data breach" lists 6,930,000 results. And The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse chronology of data breaches http://www.privacyrights.org/data-breach lists over 500 million records breached since 2005, including details. Technology gurus say once something is posted on the Internet it remains there forever. You can bet the organizations in these articles cringe at the constant and permanent reminder of a gaffe they would rather everyone forget.

The 2010 Data Breach Investigations Report is a study conducted by Verizon and the U.S. Secret Service, analyzing data breaches from the past six years. The results can help shed light on common causes of data breaches.

For example, according to the study, in 2009 48% of data breaches were caused by insiders, both deliberately and unintentionally. Misuse also accounted for nearly half of breaches. Misuse can occur from insiders, but can also happen when a partner or third party does not take appropriate steps to protect an organization's data. What I find hopeful is that only 1% of data breaches from misuse were the violation of an IT asset disposal policy.

This relates to a 2010 Converge Trends Report statistic: 86.4% of respondents have a formal, end-of-life ITAD strategy. In our 2009 study, only 67.3% responded that they had such a strategy. All of these findings indicate that IT asset disposition strategies are being recognized as crucial to organizations' data security efforts, and organizations are communicating them internally. In fact, in the Trends Report, 83.5% said their organization had controls in place to ensure that end-of-life equipment is disposed of in accordance with their corporate strategy.

Each of these studies is managed independently, with varying controls and samples. While none of them can be considered "comprehensive", each can provide some level of useful information to help you evaluate and refine your IT asset disposition strategy. If there are other relevant surveys or reports, let me know by sending me a comment.

October 6, 2010

Damage to parts in transit

Recently, I was on a call with a prominent technology OEM client that Converge works with to test, product identify, classify and refurbish external hard drives. After the hard drives are tested and classified, the next step in the reverse supply chain service was to return the materials to the supply chain — either by Converge managing the process on behalf of the OEM, or by returning the materials to the OEM directly. The OEM’s representative raised a legitimate concern about an issue with a previous vendor that had sent back damaged materials.

This is a common problem when shipping components around the world. Hard drives in particular are very mechanical. They have spinning plates and other interworking parts that are susceptible to damage. Packaging and shipping logistics can have a direct impact on their quality, and the more times a hard drive is handled in transit, the greater the probability that damage can occur due to wear and tear.

Climate control is also a contributing factor to damage. The recommended temperature to store hard drives is from 86°F to 122°F (30°C to 50°C). If the drive is exposed to temperatures above 55°C (131°F), the drive might become compromised. International Customs Inspection is another damage factor. Product integrity is dependent on the import country, duration of the inspection, temperature of a holding area, as well as the quality of the country’s transportation system. Last summer’s traffic jam near Beijing, China, that stretched for more than 62 miles (100 km) and lasted over a week comes to mind as a transportation issue. The average temperature in Beijing was 90°F (30°C). The temperature inside a shipment truck would have surely exceeded the recommended hard drive storage temperature.

Many OEMs ship equipment to APAC locations for testing, only to have the materials return to Europe or North America. The back-and-forth international travel is more expensive and increases the amount of “touches” to the equipment. When materials leave distribution centers ready to be returned to the supply chain but are damaged in transit, it is costly to not only the OEM, but also to the third-party tester as well.

Utilizing a reverse logistics manager that has locations convenient to your facility can lessen the number of parts damaged in transit. Converge has locations in the United States, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Have you had shipping issues with your equipment?