Business Irish

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Video: AMI helps Irish firms get rid of old IT equipment securely - and generates cash back

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

AMI has passed millions back to clients retiring their old IT equipment, but generating a new revenue stream should not be the main priority for firms looking for secure disposal, according to the firm's managing director.

The IT disposal firm resold 23,324 PCs and laptops, creating €2m for their clients, last year. But MD Philip McMichael maintains its AMI's focus on security that sets them apart.

It ranks among the top seven companies audited worldwide by standards agency ADISA (Asset Disposal and Information Security Alliance) and boasts 11 security accreditations.

Some of the most security-conscious organisations are on AMI's client list including data centres, banks, government departments and blue-chip corporations.

So it's this standard of security that AMI adhere to that is seen as a key differentiator from competitors in the market.

However, McMichael acknowledges that sometimes clients focus more on the value than on the security "which can be very frustrating". 

"IT disposal is a decision that shouldn't be made purely on finances, it should be based on security standards," he told Independent.ie.

AMI's doors are open to auditors and customers alike, according to McMichael, who is confident that the company's certification and processes make them the most secure in the country.

"We've scored consistently at the top level in any audit, and the auditors can turn up at any time. It keeps you at the top of your game," he said.

"One of the things we also promote is for clients to come and see us, come and understand what's happening to the computers, we're happy to show you the security that we have put in place."

Humble beginnings

Over the last two decades, AMI have refined how they deploy and manage their processes - now using Blancco data cleaner software - but it was in a second-hand computer store in 2000 where this story first began.

"A chap walked in the door and said that he'd a client who had 50 computers and could we provide a solution to buy them off the client but also provide the related security. We did a bit of research and that's where it started," said McMichael.

"That client, although they've changed hands a few times, are still one of our clients."

With family experience in retail, McMichael acted as manager in the computer store and then moved to AMI, which eventually "overtook everything".

"We've actually come full circle where we've developed an online retail presence again with this business. We've set up a website in the last five years and developed that side of the business and are back in retail," he said.

Employing twice the number of employees as it did three years ago, AMI's headcount across its two facilities in Newtownabbey and Rathcoole now stands at 40 people.

An increased focus on data security from companies in recent years, not least due to impending GDPR regulation, has boosted AMI 's revenues to as high as €4.6m in 2017.

But McMichael said that, as a team, they won't be doing anything much differently to get ready for the new regulations which comes into effect next month.

"The service that we've been providing for years essentially fulfils the idea of GDPR," he said.

"GDPR had to be changed as it was 20 years since the last legislation came in and date has changed dramatically in the last five years never mind the last two decades.

"But, in essence, the systems we have in place fulfil what we see in GDPR is specific to our industry."

How they do it

AMI provide each of their clients with a standards document that they work to and update as new accreditation and techniques come into place.

The team seek a register from the client beforehand to confirm what they are collecting and once they have completed the collection, there are several layers of security from then on, from the staff that are out in uniform to the unmarked collection vehicles.

"Once they come into our process, we can guarantee the clients of all the asset register that we complete and how we record all the information and take all the labels off the outside. Then we go through the Blancco process, through various levels of security to ensure the device has been wiped, to test it has been wiped; the device can't move through the system without that.

"If there's any sort of problem with the hard drive, there's a solution in place to shred the hard drive and then we provide all the details back to the client to say when we collected the device, what is was, where it went to. We've built all of that over the many years of providing the service."

Looking to the future, McMichael said that it's hard to say how Brexit will impact the business but that AMI can see opportunities for expansion in southern Ireland. 

"The fact that the office space is continually getting filled up is only good news for us. No one knows really whats going to happen with Brexit but there's obviously concerns our side as we have lorries going across the border with equipment between the two sites.

"We believe that we're well covered with the two sites, though."

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