The concept of data erasure “yield” has never been a major topic of discussion in data center IT asset management. So, it’s completely understandable if you’re thinking: what is data erasure yield and why is it a hidden value killer?

Simply put, data erasure yield is the success rate achieved by the data sanitization software. For example: if you wipe 100 hard drives, the number of times the sanitization process resulted in a successful data erasure gives you the yield rate.

We refer to data erasure yield as “the hidden value killer” because:

  1. It has the greatest potential impact on Total Return, a comprehensive ROI approach to measuring the actual performance of data center ITAD.
  2. Despite yield’s enormous ROI impact, few organizations pay any attention to the performance metric when evaluating the overall success of their data center ITAD program or individual data center decommissioning projects.
Data Erasure Yield Rates

I should note there are no hard industry average data erasure yield rates, but from customer experience we see rates hovering in the 50-60% range with competitive data sanitization products. Yield rates can vary based on the type or size of the drive, the storage technology, or by its condition. For example:

  • Decommissioned hard drives. These are working hard drives retired from production during routine data center IT refresh, decommission, consolidation, migration, or lease return activity. Independent of the variables below, this is where you should see your data erasure highest yields. Using Teraware, our data erasure yield rate on large onsite data center decommissioning jobs is consistently at or above 99%.
  • Loose break-fix RMA hard drives. Most hard drives that fail in data center production or have been flagged for predictive failure are still under manufacturer warranty. These RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) hard drives can be returned for either a replacement or credit from the manufacturer. Failed hard drives inherently have technical health issues, so the data erasure yield rate will typically be lower. However, our data erasure yield rate with Teraware is consistently 75-85% for loose break-fix RMA hard drives.
  • Solid-state drives (SSDs).Where standard hard disk hard drives (HDDs) use magnetic storage, SSDs use flash memory and firmware to find and store data. SSD yields will be impacted by firmware support or by firmware that has rendered the device inoperable. ITRenew has developed methods to recover or workaround these firmware states and as such we have an 85-90% yield when erasing SSDs. A big reason for this high rate of success is Teraware was the first data sanitization software to be ADISA certified to erase SSDs beyond forensic recovery, back in October of 2014. As I explain in this blog, certification is paramount to ensuring data erasure compatibility.
  • High-capacity hard drives. These are hard drives with a storage capacity of 2TB or more. The higher number of data storage blocks in high-capacity hard drives create additional opportunities for the data erasure process to fail. In addition, newer drive technology that increases the sector size 8x from 512 to 4,096 bytes increases software compatibility challenges. Notwithstanding, our high-capacity hard drive data erasure yield is 75-85%.

When the data erasure process fails, hard drives must be physically removed from the servers and destroyed. In aggregate, ITRenew’s data erasure yield rate with Teraware is consistently at or above 95%, which is upwards of an 90% increase over industry-average yield rates.

Data Erasure Yield’s Impact on ITAD ROI and Total Return

Since ITAD service providers never made erasing data onsite in the data center a viable option, many companies adopted a shred-only policy for hard drive data security. However, as I explained in To Erase or Not to Erase: Never the Question in Data Security Best Practices, a shred-only policy increases data security breach risk, IT decommissioning costs, and data center carbon footprints. All of which decreases Total Return on ITAD investment.

The data breach risk of any non-data erasure security practice is the single biggest impact on ITAD return on investment. In 2016, the average cost of a data breach in the United States was $7.35 million. But as everyone knows, a data security breach is the gift that keeps on giving. Companies can battle for years to regain customer confidence and rebuild their stock price after a data breach. How confident are you about now in using Equifax’s services? By some estimates, the most recent Equifax data breach will cost the company at least $1 billion, per my previous blog Balancing Digital Security and Cost in Data Center ITAD.

When you shred hard drives for data security, you also destroy their IT asset remarketing value. Let me cite this data center decommissioning case study to help qualify the lost value recovery opportunity. For the data housing customer referenced, we increased their average data erasure yield from 50% to 90%, netting them $4.8 million of additional remarketing revenue per year. Even more importantly, the previous data sanitization tool utilized by the incumbent ITAD vendor couldn’t erase SSDs or high-capacity drives, so all of those hard drives were being destroyed. No advanced mathematics degree or even a calculator is required to figure out that’s 0% data erasure yield. This is very important for two reasons:

  1. Any data security method other than data erasure increases data breach exposure risk.
  2. SSD and high-capacity hard drives represent an increasing portion of the hard drives currently being decommissioned as the data center equipment you purchased two to three years ago is refreshed to keep pace with the increasing compute and data storage demands.

As the data center ITAD case study further attests, we re-processed a batch of hard drives that previously failed data erasure using another industry-leading tool and recovered 60% of those drives. You’ll have to download the case study to find out which tool that was.

To put the IT asset remarketing opportunity into further perspective, Teraware is used to erase more than 4 million hard drives a year. If Teraware’s yield rate was “only” 30% higher than other tools, we would be recovering more than 1.2 million hard drives every year from shredding. Using an average remarketing value of $30 per drive, we’re talking about more than $36 million in IT equipment value recovery revenue is reclaimed each year simply for Teraware’s per annum hard drive wiping volume.

The financial impact of data erasure yield doesn’t end there. Hard drives that fail data erasure are typically shred onsite. If you figure an average $7 per-drive shred fee that is charged by the ITAD vendor, you can add more than $8.4 million to what we’re saving customers each year. Additionally, failed hard drives are often stored in cages for some period until bulk shredding can occur. How much does your data center floor space cost per square foot? How much is the IT labor cost to handle the hard drives, including identifying which ones within the server rack failed to erase?

Another consideration is the lost RMA opportunity for decommissioned IT assets. We’ll delve deeper into the data security and financial implications of RMA management later in this blog series. But if you destroy failed hard drives, you may not receive any refund or credits from the manufacturer. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so even if you are getting a partial RMA credit for destroyed hard drives, you’re probably paying for it somewhere along the line.

Finally, most ITAD service providers will charge a license fee regardless if the data erasure process succeeds or fails, where our Teraware license manager only activates a license on successful data sanitizations.

Data Erasure Yield Best Practices

Follow these best practices to increase your data erasure yield and improve your Total Return and data center decommissioning ROI:

  • Get informed about your data erasure yield rates. Ask your data center managers or your IT asset management team how many hard drives are being destroyed because of failed data erasure. Demand that your data center ITAD service provider document the data erasure yield rate on each different type of hard drive that they process. Find out where you may have issues, and estimate the impact. ITRenew has a proprietary calculator that allows you to quantify the Total Return opportunity. Contact us if you would like to receive an assessment.
  • Negotiate service level agreements (SLAs) for data erasure yield. Require that your data center ITAD service provider meet minimum data erasure yield thresholds and set goals for improving data erasure yield results.
  • Pilot test data sanitization tools and onsite ITAD security services. As demonstrated in the case study, pilot testing alternative data sanitization solutions can pay huge dividends. Onsite data sanitization can be performed independent of IT asset recovery, so you don’t have to replace your current ITAD service providers, especially not to pilot test data erasure performance.
  • Test data erasure compatibility on data center IT equipment before you deploy. Planning for the data sanitization of data center IT equipment pre-production might seem extreme, but is a best practice considering compatibility issues are the primary causes of data erasure failure. Early engagement with our data center decommissioning customers allows us to ensure compatibility before new technology ever enters their data center production environment.