Come July 14, there might be a lot of people wondering what to do with their old server hardware.

That’s the last date of support for Windows Server 2003, the Microsoft Corp. server OS that is still running on 40 per cent of servers in Canada, according to Microsoft. With so many companies waiting until the last minute to upgrade, it’s likely that a lot of servers running the 13-year-old OS are also ready to be retired. It’s common to pair a software refresh with a hardware refresh in IT departments. Perhaps they need new, more powerful and energy-efficient servers to run Windows Server 2012 or a Linux-based option. Or perhaps the company has offloaded its applications to a cloud service and no longer needs any server hardware.

Whatever the case, make sure you have a plan for what do to with that  old server that doesn’t involve it going to a landfill somewhere. Besides being environmentally responsible and not contributing to the eWaste problem, you might even stand to benefit financially or socially from that old hunk of silicon.

Here’s a few options to consider:

Donate it to a good cause

Chances are, even though your business has moved on to more modern hardware, that old server can be put to good use somewhere else – and by someone that could really use it. Rather than adding it to the scrap heap, boost your company’s corporate social responsibility profile by giving the server away to a good cause. There are even organizations that make it easy for you to do so.

Take the Electronic Recycling Association (ERA), for instance. This Calgary-based non-profit offers depots across the country where you can drop off your unwanted hardware, or if you have more than 20 items, it will do a free pickup. Once ERA has your hardware, Kristi Gartner says it will try to refurbish it for operation. Its team of techs can fix up old servers and outfit it with a Linux, Unix, or Windows OS for another organization that demonstrates the need for the donation. Often, other charities are the recipients of the hardware.

“To get their operations up and running they really need something like that,” Gartner says. “We’ve been told it makes a huge difference. It means they can put their funds to program development instead of technology.”

ERA investigates the applicants looking to receive hardware donations to verify they are registered charities or non-profit organizations. Another program it contributes to is Leg-up Laptops, which finds students in need of computers through their school.

And if your hardware absolutely can’t be put to good use anywhere, ERA will make sure to dispose of it in an environmentally responsible fashion. It works with accredited recycling partners to ensure that e-waste is reduced to less than one per cent, Gartner says.

“We’re not breaking down operational equipment,” she says. “We’re actually using everything and helping people that can’t afford their own equipment.”

Your company won’t get a tax receipt, but it does get a report stating how your data was wiped. If you really want to know your data is safely disposed of, a video of your hard drive being shredded is available.

Sell it on the second-hand market

Much like you sold your old iPod when you get a new smartphone, you can sell server equipment on the second-hand market too. You can even go to the same places such as online classifieds sites Craigslist or Kijiji. You’re likely to find a hobbyist or even a small business that can put that server to use automating their in-home entertainment streaming system or running SharePoint.

If you don’t want to bother with haggling and meeting with prospective buyers, there are services that will buy those servers from you if they’re in good enough shape. Server Monkey offers an online form for its buy-back program.

Have it disposed of responsibly

Perhaps you know your server is truly at its end of usefulness, or perhaps you’re just too paranoid to give away that storage to anyone else. If you must dispose of your electronic hardware, don’t just throw it out – ewaste can be incredibly harmful to the environment. A non-profit like ERA will destroy your hard drives and recycle that metal for you. There are numerous shredding services you can call up to come to your office and dispose of your old hard drives and servers securely, for a fee.

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