Tidying up for the new year: Inventory, dispose, and clean

The beginning of a new year is the usual time to tie up loose ends from the past year and clean the slate for the coming year. Here are Jerry Smith's recommendations for tasks to consider.

It's that time again. The time of resolutions and to-do lists. As a System Administrator that also means getting ready for the year ahead and wrapping up the year that passed. It's the perfect time to finish up the yearly budget, take inventory and do a spring-cleaning of obsolete equipment in that server room. Let's take a look at some things to do as well as some tools to help you get 2012 off to a great start!

Spiceworks is a free application that offers everything from help desk, network health scans, inventory, and warranty management. Did I mention free? Simply download and install on a server and within a couple hours it has scanned your network and will display all devices, warranty status and drive capacity among other things. It is surprisingly robust and non-invasive to be a free product.

Spiceworks will help you manage your inventory.

One common problem facing most IT Departments is disposal. To be compliant with state and local laws in disposing of electronic equipment plus to do the right thing ecologically, we should contact an e-cycling company to handle our obsolete equipment. This site by the EPA offers contacts for your local area. But you're not done there; you have to be certain your company data is off of these machines. Many firms simply remove the disks and eventually amass a huge amount of hard disks. Several document disposal firms also destroy hard disks, but you can handle it yourself. There are many utilities out there to wipe your hard disk, from Darik's Boot and Nuke to Killdisk. I prefer the former, plus the tried and true method of hard disk disposal.

One resolution we have is to clean up that communications rack. How many times have we used long cables and just slapped it all together due to time constraints with "I'll get to it later" being mumbled? Well now is the time. Cables are at an all time low with 1-3 foot patch cables going for less than $2 locally. Spend a couple hundred dollars and a few hours and the results will not only lighten your mood but will make troubleshooting a breeze.

Some inspiration

For budgeting purposes, don't forget to include growth of existing systems as well as support. This article by Rick Vanover gives a great look into how many years you should purchase in your agreements. My take is this: an initial three-year support for a server, and then I go year by year after, evaluating the TCO of keeping vs. replacing the item. Generally if it is a production server, it will be replaced between year 5 and 6.

What items are on your New Year's list? Recommend your tools and tricks below.


Jerry Smith is an IT Pro with over 15 years experience. He currently is a Systems Engineer for a leading SaaS firm in Birmingham, AL.


Maybe you're one of those folks that keep their paperwork up to date day to day religiously, if you're like me and don't, the end/beginning of a new year is a time to catch up and; 1. Review all open tickets and ensure everything that can be closed out is closed. If it is one of those nagging issues you've monitored the last 3 months, close it or at least update it. 2. Orders and purchases. Close out the year, carry over what you must and start new 2012 folders for the new year. 3. Projects, same as above but with projects. Also with projects, this is a great time to look back and review your accomplishments with mgt for the year and give them an eye onto upcoming projects (which they may already have an eye on if you completed a budget for 2012). (Note to self, don't do this if you had a bad year. No need to review failures unless they ask you to, just clean them up and fix your eyes on the future. ;-) 4. Shredding - If you have a shred policy that has an annual schedule. Don't let it be overlooked. 5. The beginning of the year is a great time to review previous years outages and down time. It is also a great time to find out if your down times were acceptable to mgt. If they were not, it is a good time for them to "put up or shut up". DR plans cost money and time to implement. Be diplomatic but firm. Less down time usually will translate into more money.(This is better done late in the year if that is when budget time is) 6. Optional things - Test schedules, i.e. review your UPS test schedules, is it time to test batteries? DR reviews, policy reviews, etc. Test your BU's and certify them for another year. After upgrading to Exchgange 2010 can you REALLY recover one mailbox with GTR? Or do you just tell mgt you can cause thats what MS Exchange claims?? Test it, confirm it and sign off on it. Closing up a previous year and starting a new year is a time to build confidence with your business about why they have you around. An EOY wrap up on paperwork and reporting is a good way to publicize this but you really want to get it done between mid-Dec-mid-Jan. After that it looses its luster.


Jerry, Thanks for the tip on Spiceworks, I am a new Systems Admin and could really use this at my workplace. Downloading now. Thanks


"Cables are at an all time low with 1-3 foot patch cables going for less than $2 locally. Spend a couple hundred dollars and a few hours and the results will ..." Yikes! Don't do that. Cheap and cheerful network patch cables are a disaster in the data centre. Yes, go ahead and clean up the data wiring but spend twice as much and buy better quality cat 6 or 6A cables from a vendor like Belden [for instance]. We learned our lesson the hard way and discovered that most cheap patch cables don't pass tests for their category. We invested in better cables and a Fluke tester. We found HUNDREDS of sub-standard cables and improved data communications dramatically.

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