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How to Decommission a Data Center Server

If your data center has a server that has reached the end of its life, you’ll need to take the server out of service. There are several things that need to be considered in decommissioning a server: coordinating your teams, staying compliant with regulations, anticipating potential problems, finding a capable project manager, and recording every detail of the process. That’s why a checklist is helpful.

Though the data center server decommissioning process isn’t simple or easy, it is manageable with proper planning and organization. You can use the following checklist when you decommission a server to ensure nothing important is missed before you take it completely out of service.

  1. Even if you already have a backup of the server, you should create another one.

  2. Double-and triple-check your backups. Test to make sure backups can be recovered fully before proceeding.

  3. If you need a change request to decommission the server, place one.

  4. Record all information about the server. Leave room to record any problems that may occur later.

  5. Document every step throughout the process. Write down the what, when, and how of each change you make.

  6. Check past documentation to see which services the server supports.

  7. Notify everyone involved with the server or its supported services that the server will be going offline. Don’t forget to include the teams responsible for the infrastructure, network, and security of your device, as well as any customers who may be affected.

  8. Find and keep all software licenses relevant to the server.

  9. Migrate any software you plan to continue using onto the new replacement server, and ensure that all end users have been successfully moved to the new system.

  10. Cancel vendor contracts, including ongoing maintenance.

  11. Switch the server to maintenance mode.

  12. Disconnect the server from the network and remove firewalls and subnets.

  13. Power down the server.

  14. Unplug it and disconnect cables.

  15. Remove the server from your monitoring programs and active directory.

  16. When these steps have been completed, update your records to document all changes and notify anyone on your team who needs to know. 

Often, data centers leave a decommissioned server in place for a few weeks. This gives them time to address issues with interrupted services before they permanently discard the server. It’s not advisable to erase data from and destroy physical hard drives in a decommissioned server until you’re assured there are no lingering implications associated with taking the server out of service. 

When you perform data erasure, you should ensure that compliance regulations match your chosen method so that users’ privacy is protected. You may need a specialized program to make sure data is unrecoverable. 

Once data is erased and physical hard drives are destroyed, you have the option to recycle, repurpose, or remove the server from your data center. Check to see if your area has a local electronics recycler. Some municipalities also have programs for safe disposal.

How do you remove a decommissioned server?

You probably don’t want to let the powered down server gather dust in your data center. But safely transporting a server and its attached components is yet another big job to tackle after you’ve just gotten through the decommissioning process. 

It’s not advisable to require that your employees transport the heavy equipment by hand—or to use a warehouse lift that isn’t designed for server relocation. To do so would be risking injury to your employees and damage to the surrounding equipment in your data center. 

Instead, you need a maneuverable, heavy-duty server handling device that is designed for this exact job. The good news is, you don’t have to spend weeks or months searching for the right tool. You can rent or purchase a data center lift today and get on decommission and remove your old server equipment when you’re ready. 

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