What Do You Do With Old Computers?

If you do not lease your equipment you have several options available to you. The first of course is to take it to a local recycler. You may want to make sure they are a reputable one. Many states not have commercial laws. For example, you are not allowed to throw it away and you must use a reputable or registered recycler. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources or EPA. If your company has a Sustainability, Green or Environmental Responsibility Department they will be able to tell you the laws in your state.

Behind Curtain Number Two

Your second option is to donate it to a nonprofit organization. This of course is always the preferred option because your computer is still usable for special community programs as long as it is able to handle or be upgraded to Windows 7. Even if it isn’t, a nonprofit may also use old computers and electronics to train kids and adults in computer repair or recycling and possibly give them a job. My organization, Wits, Inc is one of the largest reuse and recycling organization in the US.  We have up to 200 people a year  come through our doors just to get job training and job development. We generally process between 5-7 million lbs of electronics a year.

Many nonprofits, like Wits, are certified, reputable and registered. To make sure, ask what they do with the equipment….if they sell it to someone else(some do that for cash)  make sure you know where they sell it. If they “scrap” it for parts that helps them keep their programs running  and you can get a tax write off for it. Be careful that some may need to charge for monitors especially if nonworking.  The price should run between $5-10each. Again, check your laws, some states will not allow charges for certain items.

Queue the Native American With a Tear

Your final option is to throw it away, As a registered recycler in several states and a nonprofit organization I do not promote this nor will I say its preferred however being non-partial to this conversation….in some states it is legal to do so.

But why would you? Computers and other electronics contain all sorts of toxic materials, precious metals, and reusable components that could be helpful to those organizations and are dangerous to the environment and water streams. Even if you aren’t generally a “Green” person, keep in mind that it doesn’t hurt to support a local nonprofit or business in your area and just do the right thing.

And please don’t throw the hard drive away. In addition to the data that may be salvageable, the board still has toxins and valuable materials in them. Most of your reputable recyclers have special software to wipe the data it. At Wits, we take them all apart and completely crush them.  We can even do it while you wait for a small fee.

If you don’t have a policy for old computers you can purchase our ULTIMATE IT POLICY TOOLKIT and create one from the Hardware Security Policy.

Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Is it Time to Replace the Computers or Can You Wait?

How long is too long to keep a computer? That answer seems to change with the economy and our budgets. Back in the nineties when companies couldn’t spend money fast enough 3 years was the norm. Later the standard was 4 years, now it seems to be 5 or whenever the darn things breaks beyond repair.  It’s understandable but, does waiting too long cost more money in the long run? I think it does.

Why Not Wait?

The first thing wrong with keeping a computer until it can no longer be repaired is it indicates that your company doesn’t have a full technology plan, that you are just winging it. Winging it is cool, especially if you are a fighter pilot or a secret agent but IT managers don’t have that luxury. IT managers require plans. Without plans our employees and users often take matters into their own hands and develop their own policies, independent of each other and management. In other words, without plans we have chaos.

The second thing wrong with waiting to replace computers is the loss of productivity.  Every fix requires time. Even simple fixes, like a memory upgrade can mean significant loss of productivity. True, most techs can replace the memory in any desktop or laptop in under five minutes, including finding the part. Except that five minutes doesn’t include the weeks or even months the user endured poor performance before finally getting enough and asking for help. It doesn’t include the phone call or web request to report the problem or the initial visit from the tech to diagnose the problem.  Total time loss for even a minor problem can be many hours. Multiply that by the number of incidents for an older computer compared to a new one and it’s not hard to justify the purchase.

So When Already?

Now that we agree keeping a computer too long is a poor choice, we are back to our original question. How long is too long. I think, for most companies, beyond four years is too long.  Of course different companies have different needs. If your users are designing computer games or doing research for NASA they should probably get new computers every six months. For most of us though, a three year old computer is probably fine.

Does your company have a full technology plan? If not, take a look at the PRACTICAL IT MANAGER GOLD SERIES.  Asset Management can be quite helpful in creating a hardware plan.

Don’t Forget Basic Training

In my first IT job I always found it interesting to know more than my boss, the director of IT at my alma mater.  Training him to do his job was very frustrating.  The hardest part was when I tried to explain that we can’t expect all the students to know how to use the new system and the new networking printers and that someone would have to teach a class.  Of course that ended up being me.

You Can’t Reap If You Don’t Sow

The training went well. We ended up having to schedule several more classes for students and faculty. The rest of the semester went much smoother, once everyone understood how the network ran. It was so successful we continued the training through the rest of the year.

What I learned then is still true, even in this day and age.  Everyone on both sides want everything to already just “Magically” work with no effort or training.  To ask them to do basics to get their job done…….out of the question. Even now when everyone should be “in the know”.

Moral of the story

Never know more than your boss or at least pretend not to know or just feel free to apply to your boss position when it opens.

For great information on how to make problem employees implement their own ideas take a look at the PRACTICAL IT MANAGER GOLD SERIES. It’s an invaluable tool.

Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

When You Grease, Don’t Forget the Quiet Wheels

As with most idioms, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is far too often completely true, especially when it comes to managing employees. This is not a good thing. One reason is people are not wheels. Noise does not necessarily mean there is a problem and quiet certainly doesn’t mean there are no problems.

A Parable for Our Time

I remember a team with which I worked several years ago that was moved to a new building. We were all quite excited. I was finally going to have an office with windows and my employees would all get bigger cubes. The managers who were squeaky wheels managed to get a look at the new area before it was officially open and laid unofficial claim to their areas. This did not affect me as my team was took calls and required a phone room. It did affect a few of my peers. I asked one, who was by far the smartest, hardest manager on the team, why he just stood by while others got asked for the good offices. He said he figured the VP would make the decisions regardless of what we said.  As usual the squeaky wheels got their choice and the quiet managers took what was left.

Another difference between wheels and people is that grease usually doesn’t quiet squeaky people. As time went on the squeaky wheels increased their teams far more than the quiet wheels did, they got all the best equipment and managed somehow to get a lot of credit for work other teams did. After a while even the quietest wheels noticed that  though they did most of the work and never complained they never seemed to get the thanks or perks the squeaky wheels got. True to their nature they said nothing but one by one they left, leaving the VP with a bunch of squeaky wheels that couldn’t really take him anywhere.  I managed to find another department myself.

And the Moral to the Story is

I understood how it happened. The VP wanted a happy office.  What he didn’t understand is to have happy office you must employ happy people. Giving the unhappy people everything they want doesn’t work, at least not for very long.

I’m not saying managers shouldn’t get out the grease gun when they hear squeaks. What I’m saying is, listen to what people want. If it is reasonable and will help productivity then make sure all your wheels get the grease and give those with the best results just a little more, otherwise you might find yourself stuck in the muck.

For tips on how to handle problem employees, squeaky and otherwise, check out the Practical IT Manager Gold Series.  It’s a great resource.