recycling iPhones

Out with the Old and In with the New… A Solution to Managing Old iPhones

October 22, 2014

With the new iPhone 6 and 6 plus just released, the question with what to do with the old, unused iPhones is (or should be) top priority for companies.  Just like any other piece of hardware that is decommissioned for upgrades, recycling or resale, iPhones that are no longer being used need to be managed properly in order to guarantee sensitive data does not get into the wrong hands.  Because, we can all admit, we treat our iPhones (or other smartphones) like the mobile computers they really are, and they contain some of our most private information!

Since people do everything these days to get at sensitive company information, an iPhone is an easy target.  So, companies need to make sure they end up in the right place.  A recent study suggested that 44% of the billion mobile phones purchased in 2013 will end up hibernating in drawers.  To avoid hitting this number, companies can implement processes to ensure they are not leaving data bearing assets, such as smartphones, sitting in drawers.

A few additional reasons why you need processes in place for upgrading phones:

  1. All phones that are no longer used need to be accounted for at all times:  Again, you do not want sensitive personal and/or company information getting into the wrong hands.  There are various steps or locations that old phones will go through after being deemed no longer in use and company should be able to have record that every phone went through every step.
  2. Ability to manage phones efficiently:  Lot of phones and a lot of other assets that your team has to manage simultaneously; and, you can’t afford to lose any of them!  Make sure you can manage your old phones efficiently while also tracking hard drives for destruction, computers for resale, etc.
  3. To protect your company data: Always remember, you are responsible for your data, not the recycling company or any other third party vendor that comes to pick up your old phones.  Make sure every phone is managed properly prior to getting picked up and don’t rely on a certificate from the vendor.

I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the point – you need to manage your old phones properly.  So how can you do that?

I suggest creating workflows for your phones to follow both as an individual unit and as a group. Companies set up workflows with stages that they deem necessary for used phones to follow.  Then you make sure every phone goes through every stage.  Viola!

It is broken down a little something like this: (note: this is an example)

Individual workflows:  These are steps that an iPhone takes on its own time, its own schedule. It is not yet moving or operating with other iPhones as a group.

In order to effectively bridge the gap between online activity and the third party vendor, the individual workflow probably starts when the used phone is turned in to a certain group at a specific location. It may be put in a secure location and then wiped when an operator has time.  After being wiped, it may go to a different location with a bunch of other iphones that have been wiped.

Individual Workflows

Group Workflows:  Eventually, your iPhone stops behaving as a single unit and starts acting as a member within a group.  Every member within the group completes the same stages at the same time.

For instance, after a bunch of iPhones are wiped – let’s say the box is full – then they get moved to the pick up location.  Before they leave the facility, management has to sign off – doesn’t matter when it is, but at some point, management should probably sign off. The vendor picks them up, gives you a certificate and you associate the certificate with the group of phones.  Keep in mind, these phones are now offsite or “mark as recycled”, for example, so they can not be showing up anywhere else.

Group Workflow


This is just an example, with stages that are probably part of the process.  You may have more, you may have less.  You may have different workflows for phones that are going to be reused versus phones that are going to be recycled.  You may even already have some sort of “system”, but there are many benefits to having standardized processes.  And, if I have learned anything about all these data breaches, it is better to have a process that aims to prevent a breach than it is to react to a breach because you didn’t take the time to implement a process.

By implementing predetermined workflows, companies can:

  1. Have a Central Repository of All Old Phones:  Easily look up the status (i.e. is this phone wiped) and location (i.e. which locked box in which data center) of any phone.
  2. Verify Chain of Custody: How much of a relief will it be when you are able to print out a defensible and accurate report for management and/or audit within a few minutes? That will save you time, money and a whole lot of aggravation!
  3. Take the Guesswork Out of Managing Phones:  Have every site and every operator following the same procedures for managing old phones across the entire organization

That same study that I mentioned earlier found that only 3% of those smartphones purchased in 2013 were recycled. There is a clear sign that companies are not doing their part to either prevent a data breach or recycle properly when it comes to employees upgrading their phones.  Having a process will improve security, lower costs and help the environment ( a boost to your company image is an added bonus!).

You can create workflows for any disposition path for any IT asset. Contact us and start implementing secure processes today. You can implement standardized and automated offline IT asset workflows within our product, AssetAware!


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