IT's Hammer time

At around midday, on any given Thursday in Canberra, a crowd of seasoned IT gleaners musters at Hyman's auction warehouse in the industrial suburb of Fyshwick to pick over quantities of IT kit turfed out by government and industry.

The technology arbitragers arrive en masse in an assortment of utes, vans and family station wagons, lodge their details and promptly set about exchanging gossip and rumour about how and why the vast assortment of kit has come to be at what must be the national capital's largest single IT chuck-out. This scene is repeated in almost every capital city in Australia.

In Canberra, a solid chap called Marek, is fossicking through the lots, making notes as he goes. What seems to be around a hundred neatly stacked brand name desktops, monitors and mid range servers immediately draw his attention. "I saw this stuff for sale [at the sellers premises] five months ago. They wanted $500 per unit – for P3 – that's a joke. I was getting the same stuff new in the box from here three years ago for that price. With warranty. They had rocks in their heads." he counsels.

With so many "rip and replace" refreshes on the move at present, CEO of Hyman's Assett Management, Ian Hyman says this year has been the busiest has seen in the last five, as corporate Australia entire networks.

"There is a new world of priorities when undertaking IT refresh programs. In the past the most pressing issues were to remove the assets from the fire escape and to ensure that [hard drives] underwent low level reformatting. The new priorities include environmentally sensitive disposal, high level security wiping, staff sales and minimising return issues with financiers." Hyman says.

Asked what the biggest mistakes that organisations make are, Hyman says that many large companies still have very poor asset tracking and management procedures, although leasing or renting IT from either suppliers or services companies "has brought some discipline to the market.

"The biggest mistake is when the stuff is bought in and people don't think about how they are going to manage that asset over time or dispose of it. A lot of times people don't know what they have, they don't even put a value on it".

"Be focused on each of the new priorities but don't lose focus on the value that is still locked up in obsolete IT assets. A lot of people don't even consider redeployment within their own organisation," is Hyman's advice for IT managers.

Meanwhile, Gray Eidsell Timms' associate director and national manager for IT, Steve Laws says IT managers working off finance rental deals for their kit need to be ever vigilant of users inadvertently covering up or picking off Windows licence stickers on their boxes.

"Different finance companies have different policies for return [of kit]. Some are tougher than others. If you don't send back the sticker you can potentially get a bill, because the sticker carries with the box." says Laws.

While freely admitting a vested interest in what he calls a "volume business", Laws says that enterprises, especially SMEs, have to realise that if they hold onto kit for four or five years, there will may be little value left in it.

"You have to make a decision as to what value you will get from replacing stuff against what you can get back for it. [Equipment] you can't sell will cost money to dispose of - which isn't cheap any more." Laws says.

As for what sells and what doesn't, Law's says he is familiar with Marek and any number of arbitragers that find niche re-export markets for locally obsolete IT goods.

"The benchmark these days is Pentium 3 or Celerons. Pentium 2s are very hard to move, unless you can re-export them. They go to places like India, but that's cooled off at the moment because the dollar is relatively high and it costs more to move them".

Marek says that he makes a "half decent" living from his garage upgrading, refitting and re-exporting second hand IT to developing economies in places. This week he reckons he's rebuilt and moved around 60 NEC Pentium 3s to Romania but is understandably guarded about margins.

"Nice quality stuff, well looked after, it would have been a real pity to see it tipped" he says.

As the auction rolls on it becomes clear that better quality monitors and servers are moving but it's a slow day for desktops. The crowd is stubborn and shows little or no interest as the auctioneer tells them he hasn't got all day for them to make up their minds.

Marek is biding his time. "It will go cheap - if it at all. Much better stuff in a few weeks, I know what is coming. Nobody wants stuff to take to the dump… sometimes some OK stuff at the dump, but they want too much for it. For them it's easy, they just push it back on the dump, and no problem." Marek says - before making a handsome bid of $10 for a bucket of hubs.

And a hammer of a different tone

Sometimes a hammer is the most appropriate tool to safeguard the information on disks of the company's saleable PCs. Rather than invest hours of time in scrubbing disks, check the economics and simply replacing the disk with a new one and physically destroying the old disk will be the surest protection and the cheapest way to prevent access to company data.

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