Refurbished IT Equipment Delivers Savings and Reliability

By Tiffany Bloomer

Small and midsize businesses everywhere are still recovering from the economic challenges of the past few years. To add to these economic pressures, there is still a continuous need to update systems and IT infrastructure to keep pace with increasing Internet traffic, online customer service, and general business demands. One of the ways businesses have coped with these challenges is by purchasing refurbished servers, personal computers, routers and other IT equipment. This is a growing practice that saves money and reduces equipment acquisition time while still providing the performance needed for most business applications.

What does "refurbished" mean?

Refurbished IT equipment is used equipment that has been cleaned, tested, reconfigured and warranted for further use. Many large businesses, research universities and other enterprises with demanding IT requirements purchase equipment on short-term leases. By continually replacing their IT equipment on a regular basis, they avail themselves of the fastest and most advanced technologies that meet their needs. When short-term equipment leases expire, used servers, personal computers, routers, switches and other IT equipment become available for resale.

Used vs. refurbished- there's a difference

One of the reasons that refurbished equipment is a good value is that these are generally robust pieces of electronic equipment that are likely to be surpassed in terms of performance and capabilities long before the end of their useful life-span. Experts agree that the useful lifetime of these components is at least six years, and sometimes more. That means businesses are much more likely to upgrade their system due to technology cycles and application demands before it begins to fail due to component failure.

However, there is a difference between equipment that is 'used' and equipment that is 'refurbished'. During the process of refurbishing a server, for example, the unit is cleaned on the outside to restore its look, and cleaned on the inside to remove accumulated dust that may cause it to run hotter than normal and shorten its life. Then, the unit is tested in a 'burn-in' process similar to when it was manufactured. This identifies any damaged or weak components, which are then replaced before the unit is put into use. Finally, the unit is reconfigured for a client's application. This thorough process allows refurbishing companies to offer warranties that are sometimes up to three times longer than those offered by the original manufacturer.

Lower costs are just the first advantage

Even as manufacturers continue to reduce prices, customers can still save up to 50 percent over the cost of new equipment. Savings on equipment can free up budgets to purchase higher-grade software for other applications. While the primary advantage of purchasing used and refurbished IT equipment is cost savings, it is not the only advantage. Additional benefits include:

Reliability - Most refurbished equipment is approximately two to three years old. This means that any technical issue with the equipment would usually have already been identified and repaired. Experience has shown that when properly cleaned, tested and reconfigured, refurbished equipment is just as reliable as new equipment.

Availability - There is a large pool of like-new refurbished equipment readily available in many markets around the country. When you order refurbished equipment, it is usually available immediately. When purchased new, most servers and other equipment have to be built, which can delay implementation of a project.

Online university enjoys cost savings

An example of an organization that has taken advantage of low-cost refurbished IT equipment is the University of Atlanta. As an accredited online university, the University of Atlanta requires a large number of servers, routers and switches to accommodate up to 800 students who may be online at any one time. Mohammed Haroon, IT director of the online school, has been convinced of the advantages of using refurbished equipment.

"We live and die by our 'online campus,' so we have to make sure we have a good infrastructure in place. Being in the education field, we don't have a large enough budget to be splurging whenever we want to. We have to control costs, especially in this economy, but we also have to invest in our organization. Refurbished IT equipment offers the best of both worlds: we're getting a quality product but not paying the high retail price- experiencing savings of up to 50 percent."

How to buy refurbished IT equipment- with confidence

Separating companies that merely offer used IT equipment from those that provide factory-quality reconditioning, testing and configuration should be the first step in selecting a quality vendor. Here are some qualities to look for when deciding which vendor to work with:

Warranties - Some suppliers offer 30-day, 'sell-and-run' warranties that expose customers to the risks of failing equipment. Look for suppliers that offer up to a three-year warranty on servers and storage units, and a one-year warranty on personal computers and networking equipment.

Certified technicians - look for suppliers that have technicians who are certified by the manufacturer. Dell and HP have developed certification programs that all resellers should complete before working on their hardware. Testing, repair, and service are such important IT support issues that you need to be sure that qualified technicians are working on your equipment.

Customer service - Choose a supplier with a good record of customer service in terms of responsiveness, short turnaround time and product knowledge. Ask for customer references to get real testimonials from customers who have already worked with the supplier and can testify to their strengths.


The need to be economically responsible is causing businesses large and small to look for ways to save money while still maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace. IT equipment, while necessary for both internal operations and customer service, can be costly. By utilizing refurbished servers, personal computers, routers, and switches, companies can save up to 50 percent over the cost of new equipment without sacrificing performance or capability. When purchasing refurbished equipment, look for a supplier that undertakes a comprehensive refurbishing and testing process and offers extended warranties. By implementing IT projects with refurbished equipment, companies will experience significant savings while still enjoying state-of-the art performance for most small and midsize business applications.