HP and IBM will take non-leased equipment and equipment purchased from other vendors, though in HP's case, only as part of an upgrade to the company's hardware. HP will apply what it considers the trade-in value of third-party equipment toward a new hardware purchase. Dell takes third-party equipment as well and will either cut a check for the value or apply the value to a new purchase. Sun takes only its own equipment and does so free of charge, with no value applied to a purchase.
Contract arrangements also vary. Most of the vendors work on fee-for-service as well as long-term-contract bases. In some cases, such as with IBM Global Services, disposal can be part of a more comprehensive asset-management offering that helps the customer take inventory and determine appropriate refresh strategies.
Vendors then attempt to reap whatever commercial value they can out of the PCs they collect, either by refurbishing and selling them or disassembling them and selling the parts, sometimes through a broker. All will enter into a profit-sharing arrangement with the customer. Dell boasts that 90 percent of the sales profits go to the customer. Intechra gives a 60 percent figure. Other vendors are not so public about their sharing ratio.
Obviously, PCs that are refreshed on a regular two-, three-, or even four-year schedule and immediately sent to the vendor are more likely to get some return than PCs are that five years old or more, or those that sit in a corporate warehouse for months or years first. All the vendors claim that they do not ship equipment, either PCs or parts, overseas unless they can verify that it is in working and saleable condition. The younger the PCs, the higher the possibility that recovery will end up being no cost after profit sharing or might even result in an overall return for the customer.
All the vendors and most of the larger third-party services provide the customer with serialized reporting on each and every asset, including whether and when it was resold or recycled, and certificates confirming data destruction. In most cases the vendor recommends that the customer do at least one data wipe on its end and/or disable the disk with special utilities or by driving a nail through the hard drive. Then the vendor will transport the equipment to one of its own sites or partner sites and do subsequent wipes, including anywhere from three to seven wipes according to customer and Department of Defense specifications.
However, vendors are also open to providing data wipe services on the customer site for an extra fee. IBM and HP have their own recovery and recycling capabilities but also partner with third parties in several locations.
Proceed with caution
It can be tempting to look at asset recovery as a cost and choose the least-expensive vendor as an asset-recovery partner. However, experts agree that reducing risk should be the primary criterion when devising a strategy: the risk of fines, lawsuits, or damaged reputation. That's why in large enterprises, increasingly, responsibility for asset-recovery has moved beyond the department level and the IT division, to the CXO level -- often to the CIO, CFO, or even CEO. It makes sense for companies to have a centralized recovery strategy so that one department doesn't get the entire organization in trouble with the law or the media.