Buyer Beware – Saving money buying refurbished servers can be expensive

As we get closer and closer to the end of life (demise) of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, we’re seeing more and more people looking for ways to replace their old gear as inexpensively as possible. As a small business myself, I certainly understand that (and do it myself) but shady dealers seem to be coming out of the wood works with deals that are “too good to be true”. I apologize for the stream of consciousness type post but here are a few things to consider when replacing that Server 2008 server.

  • A lot of people were in the same boat that you’re in. They had Windows Server 2008 Servers in place and, earlier in the year, they replaced it and sold it off (often times by weight) to asset retirement companies. Those asset retirement companies have parted everything out and are selling it off as quickly as they can, so that “newly refurbished” server you’re looking at may have already been in production in a 24/7/365 shop for several years.
  • We typically recommend people buy servers with a maximum expected lifespan of 5 to 7 years. If you’re buying a “refurbished” server, you need to keep that in mind. Look at the model number and see when it was last sold, that’s the youngest that that server will be. If it’s likely 3 to 5 years old, you’ve probably got about 2 years of life left in it. Even if the hardware physically still works, it’s likely not going to be able to keep up with newer versions of Windows.
  • The picture that you see for the refurbished gear is often not the gear that you’re buying but a representation of it. As an example, we had a customer looking at buying a $400 blade server. The picture showed a cabinet with 4 blade servers in it and the description made it seem like that was all that they needed (the single blade).
  • The Windows Operating System. Most of the refurbished servers that we’re seeing are being sold with no operating system (because, in many cases, they were sold with Windows Server 2008), meaning that you’re still going to have to buy a Windows Server license. If you’ve got more than 2 CPU cores (which you probably do) that’s going to set you back $800 to $900. There are a lot of places that will sell you government licenses or academic licenses but, if you’re neither, those aren’t for you (but they are significantly cheaper). If you buy them and put them on your server in a non government / non-academic environment and get audited, the fines will greatly exceed the cost of a proper, legal license.
  • So, now you’ve got the hardware and you’ve got a legal copy of Windows and, unless you want to actually be able to connect to it, you’re good. If you do want to use it though, you’re going to need some user or device licenses (CALs). Those are going to set you back another $40 ish per user or device.

I’m sure that there’s more that I’m overlooking here but we’re seeing a lot of people that haven’t upgraded yet and are getting understandably concerned about the pending end of life. They’re looking around and, in some cases, getting taken advantage of by deals that really are too good to be true. If you’re interested in buying refurbished / renewed gear, there are definitely safe ways to do it (the HPE Renew or Dell Outlet, for example) but it’s important to understand what you need (storage, licensing, etc.) and what you’re buying (does it have an OS license, CALs, hard drives, memory, etc.).

If you’re looking at replacing your older gear or just need someone to bounce questions off of on the best technology options for your organization, we’d love an opportunity to earn your business. All of our contact information is available here and you can call, email or come by in person (we’d recommend an appointment to make sure that a tech is available when you arrive).