A server decommissioning process is a low hanging fruit

By ITIL® from Experience©

Decommissioning or the retirement1 of a server is not always easy. Often they are poorly documented or the documentation is out-of-date. As a result, many organizations are scared to turn off an old server.

However, the main advantage of a server decommissioning process is that it simplifies the environment. Other benefits include:

  • Reduced vulnerability from old software and obsolete operating systems which may no longer be supported/patched
  • Reduced maintenance and license costs
  • Lower facilities costs (e.g. electricity)
  • Less effort to resolve incidents
  • Faster ramp up of new employees

It also improves:

  • Resolution time since less complexity makes it easier to support and no longer relies on specific individuals
  • Availability
  • People's productivity since less time is spent “figuring” things out
  • Accuracy of the I.T. Asset Management (ITAM) records

At first, the server decommissioning process2 can simply be to send an email to all operational groups, including the Service Desk), to notify them of the intent to turn off this server and to speak up if they have “anything” else which would be impacted or that could also be removed or decommissioned3 4 , (e.g. documents, DNS entries, reserved IP addresses, databases, hardware, Active Directory entries like user/service accounts or special group policies). Other non technical aspects should also be considered like: the financial disposition of the asset, the retention of the data to comply with information management policies or the physical destruction of the asset due to privacy concerns.

The next iteration of a server decommissioning process is to log a Request For Change (RFC) and to use the Change Management process to assess the impact. As the process matures, specific server decommissioning processes can be created specifically to retire an application server, or a database server, or printer server, etc. All these specific decommissioning processes are excellent candidates for a standard change.

Building a business case to justify the implementation of a retirement process can be simple. The process will be used as many times as servers are life-cycled. In addition, the "Timely cancellation or changes to maintenance contracts for hardware and software when components are disposed or decommissioned" can lead to significant savings.5

Last updated on: 2017-07-12
Published on: 2014-02-05

"...typically organisations have 40% more websites than they originally believed they had, each remaining unchecked and the equivalent of leaving the back door wide open." http://www.information-age.com/technology/security/123460603/sql-injection-how-avoid-same-fate-talktalk

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Definition of Retire: Permanent removal of an IT service, or other configuration item, from the live environment. Being retired is a stage in the life-cycle of many configuration items.

Source: Best Management Practice portfolio: common glossary of terms and definitions. Version 1, October 2012

2 Section 3.7.2 of the 2011 Edition of Service Design mentions the need to archive information on the retired service in a knowledge base in case it needs to be reactivated (p.55).
3 A small section titled "Information on the requirements for retiring services" was added in the 2011 Edition of ITIL's v3 Service Design. Page 47, provides additional guidance.
4 Guidance on what to look for can be found in ITIL® Service Transition (v3, 2007 Edition) Section Perform transfer, deployment and retirement where on page 108 it discusses Decommissioning and service retirement.


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