Decommissioning process/checklist

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The 12-step process will help YOUR organization create, implement and then execute a seamless server decommissioning plan.

Key steps in the decommissioning process

Determine risk

Determine the level of risk to the organization and its data, as well as the affected infrastructure.

Evaluation of assets

Prior to server decommissioning, verify that there are no hardware or software assets on the machine(s) that are critical for business or operations. Physical asset tags should reflect “server #1” status and date of removal – as well as any pertinent information for identifying unique hardware such as MAC address information. Establish a complete understanding of current asset status with an assessment of configuration and management activities, as well as tests.

Plan for decommissioning

Make a list of all hardware components of the machines being decommissioned, including any associated software and how the physical hardware and software will be physically removed. Document current asset configuration with workflows for handling changes.

management plan

Implement routine server configuration management plan.
Devise a consistent on-going process to enforce the use of approved server operating systems, applications and network configurations across all servers. Standardize the process across departments to minimize inconsistencies and maximize consistency throughout an enterprise.

Determine responsible parties to perform decommissioning activities and establish roles and responsibilities with each party’s responsibilities being clearly defined on a one-time basis or through ongoing guidance throughout the work plan.

maintain server

Verify that the implementation of your server configuration management plan is working as expected. Ensure that a new checklist is developed and used to confirm compliance with the approved configuration plan.

Threat assessment

Identify potential security risks and devise a plan to mitigate them, prior to server decommissioning. Review findings of risk assessment with management as well as IT staff involved in the server decommissioning process.

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Though this article focuses on the server configuration management plan, it can easily be adapted to other IT asset types. Additionally, this process also applies to any organization regardless of industry.


EXAMPLE: A client from a financial services company has been experiencing multiple data breaches and lost time. The client has determined that a “Server decommissioning checklist” will be very valuable in the prevention of future incidents occurrences. The client has decided that server decommissioning is the best available strategy to mitigate risk and move away from non-standard server configurations and configurations that cause vulnerabilities. They are also aware that other firms within the industry have already implemented a similar process to this one and are not experiencing break-ins or significant data loss due to proper configuration management practices. The client wants to be able to utilize the same benefits the other firms are experiencing and wants to proactively eliminate the possibility of a future data breach. The client has a large number of servers that they currently manage, and they have also requested that this team create a server decommissioning checklist for them.


To implement this process, first select three specific groups: IT Operations Group (ITOPS), Security Team and Database Team. A fourth group for database administrators will be added later as needed.


Once selected, bring in various experts from each department to first look at their current workloads and procedures in regards to configuration management. Together, begin to agree upon a new server configuration management plan.


The goal for this group is to create a checklist that will be periodically reviewed by the client’s ITOPS team and then utilized by the client’s database administrators.
Once approved, each team has been assigned specific responsibilities.


Each department will also be assigned members to become responsible parties for the following:


Once the initial discussions are completed and approved, these people are now working together as a cohesive unit toward common goals of data security and network reliability.


Decommissioning infrastructure is a complex process for any organization, and to simplify it we will use the example of an email server.


This process can be used for any number of servers – but it is critical to apply the same level of rigor and discipline to every server being decommissioned. This includes the developing and deploying of a standard checklist, as well as performing thorough testing before decommissioning. This article will discuss the blueprint for such a process as well as steps involved in completing an actual decommissioning project.


This article assumes that a network engineer is actually performing the decommissioning task, but there will be many times when they will need the help of other groups to complete a project. If a security or database administrator is asked to help complete the task, it will be very helpful for them to view how one server is decommissioned. They should also be shown portions of the checklist so they can have an understanding of what needs to be done in each section and why that action is necessary.


If you’re interested in more details about the recommendations I outlined above, please contact us today.


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