<img src="https://secure.leadforensics.com/51024.png" style="display:none;">

Benefits & challenges of device reclamation: recovering lost or missing devices

Did you know that according to Gartner, "about 30% of enterprise IT hardware may be lost, missing, or 'inactive' in enterprise environments today, which happens at any stage of the lifecycle — from procurement to provisioning to upgrading"? Ghosted devices are devices that are either no longer in use or have fallen out of active management but still remain a part of the company's asset inventory.

That's 30% of your hardware estate you could be paying leasing fees, software licenses, and ongoing service costs for, and this doesn't even include the additional devices you have to buy to replace those or the enormous amount of e-waste your organization is creating. 

In this article, we discuss how organizations can use device reclamation as a way to prevent or at least minimize device ghosting and examine the advantages and disadvantages of the approach so you can decide if this is right for you.

How do you prevent device ghosting?

There are multiple strategies to prevent devices from becoming lost, stolen, misplaced, or ghosted. Some are more successful than others and, almost always, a combination of several strategies works best.

Clear processes and instructions on how to decommission a device

It seems kind of obvious that we need to provide clear processes and instructions on how to properly decommission devices once they are broken or unusable. This includes establishing a formal process for employees to follow when they no longer need a device, such as returning it to the IT department or following a specific decommissioning procedure. Clear instructions should be easily accessible and communicated regularly to employees to ensure they are aware of the proper steps to take. But for many organizations, this gets lost in the shuffle.

Put someone in charge

Most organizations don't have a single person in charge of tracking the company's devices. But think about it this way: Considering that 30% of devices are ghosted, you could be looking at more than $1,500,000 in savings every year if you have 20,000 employees and you allocate $250 per employee for devices. 

Regularly audit your IT assets

Regularly auditing IT assets is crucial for identifying ghosted devices. Organizations should conduct periodic audits to ensure that all devices listed in their inventory are accounted for and in use. Audits should be thorough and include both physical verification of devices and checks of device-usage logs. By identifying lost or missing devices during audits, organizations can promptly take action to decommission them and mitigate potential security risks.

Device buy-back programs or Amnesty Days

Implementing a device buy-back or trade-in program can also be an effective strategy to prevent device ghosting. By offering incentives for employees to return old or unused devices, organizations can encourage responsible device disposal and reduce the likelihood of devices being abandoned or lost. This approach not only helps prevent ghosting but also promotes a culture of sustainability and responsible asset management within the organization.

Automate your device decommissioning process

While the above-mentioned strategies can be helpful, they are more or less Band-Aids without a strategy to automate device lifecycle management and decommissioning processes. You need to track devices from procurement to provisioning and all the way to decommissioning, including reassignments to other users, locations, or departments. For example, a useful way to keep tabs on your devices is to flag any devices that haven't connected to your internal network in the last 30-90 days. If this happens, the employee who is assigned to the device (and potentially their manager) needs to be emailed and followed-up on.

This can be achieved through the use of device lifecycle management tools, like Juriba (out-of-the-box) or ServiceNow (with some custom work), that can automatically detect and decommission devices that have not been used for a specified period. By automating the process, organizations can reduce the likelihood of devices being forgotten or overlooked, thereby minimizing the risk of ghosting.

What is device reclamation?

In order to automate your device lifecycle management and decommissioning processes, you need to first reclaim the devices that have been lost or are missing. The process of identifying and repurposing inactive or ghosted devices within an organization is referred to as device reclamation. This process typically involves several key steps:

  1. Identification: Locating devices that are not being used or have been lost in the shuffle of daily operations. This might involve auditing hardware assets or using IT management software to track down unused devices.

  2. Assessment: Evaluating the condition and potential usability of the identified devices. This can include checking for hardware issues, software updates, or compatibility with current systems.

  3. Reintegration or Disposal: Depending on the assessment, the devices may be reintegrated into the active pool of resources, repurposed for different roles, or safely disposed of if they are no longer viable.

This process helps in optimizing resource utilization, reducing waste, and ensuring that the company's hardware assets are efficiently managed. It's particularly important in large enterprises where tracking every device can be challenging and unused assets can represent a significant financial overhead cost.

Benefits of device reclamation

Device reclamation offers numerous benefits for organizations, making it a crucial aspect of effective device lifecycle management. By implementing device reclamation strategies, organizations can minimize the environmental impact of electronic waste, recover valuable materials, and save money.

Minimizing the environmental impact of electronic waste

Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, has become a significant environmental concern due to the increasing number of discarded electronic devices. Ghosted devices contribute to this problem, as they often end up in landfills or are improperly disposed of. Device reclamation addresses this issue by ensuring that ghosted devices are properly recycled or refurbished, reducing the amount of e-waste generated.

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world according to the United Nations University Global E-Waste Monitor. Mobile phones and PCs make up nearly 10% of the total waste.

Gartner: The Complete Guide to a Sustainable Device Lifecycle Using the IT Circular Economy


In addition to environmental benefits, device reclamation allows organizations to recycle devices responsibly to recover valuable materials from ghosted devices. These materials, such as metals, plastics, and precious metals, can be reused in the manufacturing of new devices, reducing the need for raw material extraction and minimizing the environmental impact associated with mining and refining.

Significant cost savings

Furthermore, device reclamation can result in significant cost savings for organizations. A lot of organizations are leasing their devices today, and while most DaaS contracts include a small percentage of allowances, one of our customers shared that they have to pay $150 per device every year. If you have a large number of employees and therefore ghosted devices, this quickly adds up to 6-7 figure savings. In addition, by recovering ghosted devices and refurbishing them, organizations can extend the lifespan of their IT assets, reducing the need for frequent device replacements. This can lead to substantial savings on hardware procurement and maintenance costs.

Better security compliance

Any device that is outside of your control is a potential security hazard as it may contain sensitive data that could be accessed by unauthorized individuals. By reclaiming ghosted devices and securely wiping their data, organizations can mitigate these risks and ensure compliance with data protection laws and regulations.

Improved efficiency and effectiveness of IT operations

Lastly, device reclamation contributes to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of IT operations. By having an accurate inventory of IT assets, organizations can optimize device allocation, streamline maintenance processes, and make informed decisions regarding device procurement and replacement. This leads to improved IT service delivery and enhanced productivity across the organization.

Challenges of device reclamation

Despite the many benefits, device reclamation doesn't come without its unique set of challenges that organizations must navigate with care.

Safeguarding data security and privacy

Paramount among these concerns is safeguarding data security and privacy. Reclaimed devices often harbor sensitive information, making robust data erasure and sanitization techniques indispensable. Failure to implement these measures could lead to unauthorized access or data breaches, compromising sensitive information.

Reclamation logistics can be complex

The physical collection and transportation of devices add another layer of complexity to the reclamation process. Organizations must meticulously plan and manage these operations to ensure efficient and secure handling. Any mishandling can result in data loss or damage, highlighting the importance of well-trained and experienced personnel throughout the process.

Responsible disposal and recycling practices

Environmental and sustainability considerations further complicate device reclamation. Organizations must prioritize responsible disposal and recycling practices to minimize the ecological footprint of decommissioned devices. These efforts align with corporate social responsibility initiatives and comply with regulatory requirements.

Managing human error

Beyond these practical challenges, organizations must also contend with the human element. The potential for human error during the reclamation process is ever-present, underscoring the need for rigorous training and strict adherence to protocols. Mishandling of devices can have serious consequences, including data loss or damage.

In conclusion, device reclamation is a multifaceted endeavor that requires organizations to strike a balance between data security, operational efficiency, environmental responsibility, and human factors. By addressing these challenges head-on, organizations can ensure a secure and sustainable device reclamation process that safeguards sensitive information, protects the environment, and complies with regulatory requirements.


Calculate the cost of inactive devices in your organization

Inactive devices are the elephant in the room conversation. But if you could see the financial impact, would you keep ignoring it?

Try the cost calculator

Like this blog? Try these:

What are inactive or "ghosted" devices and why should you care?

Read the blog

The impact of ghosted devices on enterprises

Read the blog

16 questions you need to ask to assess the risk of lost or missing devices

Read the blog