Servers are the computer hardware and software components that make up a client-server model for a business or organization. You have the server and all the different workstations or devices in an office that connect to it through the network. Servers can:

  • Control access to a company or organization’s network.
  • Run applications and updates
  • Store and manage documents, images, and other files
  • Host websites
  • Deliver email, attachments, and web pages
  • Manage requests like print jobs

Servers do not last forever. On average, a server lasts about 10 years, though a well-maintained server may make it to 20 years. Components like hard drives may fail earlier than that, but those components can be replaced as needed. How do you know when your server’s lifespan is up and it’s time to replace it?

The Four Key Stages of a Server’s Life

After you research and purchase the equipment for your server, what happens next? Explore the four key stages of a server’s lifecycle.


You’ve purchased your equipment and it’s been delivered. At this point, the equipment is deployed. It’s set up, software is installed and configured, and tests ensure things are working properly. If any adjustments are needed, it happens at this stage.


Once any bugs are worked out and all systems are running properly, you’ve entered the operation stage. The server is doing what it’s supposed to do, and you’re handling regular maintenance like software updates and security patches, ensuring workers know their responsibilities, and keeping things cleaned of dust to prevent overheating from clogged fans and vents.

Declined Performance

Eventually, older components may wear out. While a server’s lifespan is around 10 years, the average lifespan of a hard drive is around five years. Systems that connect to the servers, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, printers, etc. may all be replaced before a server is, and this all goes to performance issues that need to be addressed.

Warranty coverage on your server’s components likely only lasted a year or two. As performance declines and software updates and patches are no longer available, evaluating the benefits of keeping your current server running over decommissioning and replacing it becomes essential.


When it is time to decommission your server, you have to do it correctly. You can’t just put up the old equipment for sale and hope for the best or put it out in a dumpster. Professional decommissioning is important to protect your business from fines and lawsuits.

When Should Decommissioning Take Place?

 How do you know when it’s time to decommission your servers? You need to pay close attention to these signs.

Electricity Bills Increase

Your company’s electricity bills keep increasing even though you’re not using more. Older servers and equipment can be energy hogs. Older monitors use more electricity than newer LED ones. The energy savings on newer equipment can be substantial.

In an Energy Innovation report, a data center’s energy consumption breaks down to about 43% for the cooling systems, 43% for the servers, 11% for the storage drives, and 3% for the networking equipment. The more efficient the equipment, the more you save on energy costs.

Here’s some food for thought. In 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy announced grants to several universities and companies through the COOLERCHIPS program. The funds are used to create green-friendly data centers. While programs like these come and go, it doesn’t hurt to ask your local power company if there are any grant programs available and to check the DOE’s website for current grants and other energy-efficiency programs and see if you qualify for funding.

Performance Issues

As more users connect to the server, is it struggling to keep up? If an older server is lagging, unreliable, or frequently failing, it’s time to look into decommissioning. In general, times change, and the server you designed and implemented 10 years ago may not meet your growing organization’s needs. 

Just as a growing family may require a larger home for the new additions, a data center requires more space for a growing business. Upgrades of different components only help so much.

Hardware Failures

Hardware that’s part of your server will fail before your server does. However, when you start to experience an abundance of hardware failures in succession, it’s time to consider decommissioning and starting anew.

Software Is No Longer Compatible or No Longer Has Security Updates

When software updates no longer work with your system, you can’t keep older components running properly. Sometimes, you can simply remove an older printer with ineffective drivers and get a new one, but other times, the servers are outdated and nothing helps. You need to keep systems updated and secure, so if you can’t update the software and security patches, it’s unsafe and needs to be addressed.

Older servers are at risk of security breaches. The last thing you want is to end up facing lawsuits because of a server breach. In 2023, the CISA, FBI, and MS-ISAC released information that a web server user interface tool was breached. Vulnerability in the software had been an issue for four years, but not everyone using this tool had removed it or installed the required security patches. Old software is a risk you shouldn’t take.

The Best Practices for Decommissioning Your Servers

When it’s time to decommission your servers, it’s not something to rush. It’s a time-consuming project and that downtime can be costly to your business if you don’t plan accordingly. Before you do anything, you need to research the equipment that will replace your existing server. The cost may seem high, but make sure you’re analyzing the energy savings, increased security, and boosted performance. When a system is safer, does more, and costs less to run, the savings in time, energy, and frustration make it a worthwhile investment.

Once the equipment is ordered, it’s time to start looking at backing up your existing systems, coming up with a game plan for the decommissioning, and what happens to the old equipment. You can’t just turn off your current system, install the new equipment, and turn things back on, and hope for the best.

Server decommissioning starts by getting the new server up and running flawlessly before you decommission the old. Once that’s done, you need to destroy data on old hard drives, storage devices, etc. If you don’t, you could be violating the laws and face fines if any personal information like bank accounts, employee records, or patient records are breached due to improper data destruction.

Once data is destroyed, you can’t just toss out old electronics into the trash. That’s illegal in many states as old electronics contain heavy metals, batteries, and other contaminants that harm the environment. They must be properly recycled.

ERI specializes in data center decommissioning and electronic recycling. We destroy data at your place of business or our secure sites. We follow government regulations that are required for your business or organization and provide you with the paperwork to prove you took the correct steps. Ask us about our ITAD services and decommissioning options.