Refurbished IT: boosting the climate and bottom line

By Nick Stapleton, Managing Director at ETB Technologies.

  • 4 months ago Posted in

The trend of upcycling furniture, buying second hand clothing, or used cars are all admired and encouraged – whether you are driven by becoming more climate-conscious or by saving money where you can.

But when it comes to refurbished IT – be it servers, storage, or networking equipment – there are still enough misconceptions out there to make some businesses hesitant to make the switch.

Throughout my 30 years working in the refurbished enterprise IT sector, I have witnessed on multiple occasions that kneejerk reaction some people can have when it is suggested to them as a viable option. They immediately picture outdated tech models with reduced performance, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead of giving in to these misconceptions, companies must focus on a more sustainable approach to the lifecycle of IT; working towards meeting their ESG requirements while also supporting the UK’s circular economy.

Not only this, with 65% of business owners claiming their top concern for this year is the rise in running costs, and with longer wait times for brand new hardware, the financial benefits and reduced waiting times of refurbished shouldn’t go unnoticed either.

With more business leaders becoming interested in sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in recent years, awareness of refurbished IT has undoubtedly been increasing – but more could still be done. I’d argue that promoting knowledge and understanding of refurbished IT should be a responsibility for the tech industry. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, more and more hardware is being needlessly discarded and ending up in landfills, contributing to environmental pollution and resource depletion.

New vs refurb

To address one of the most common questions that crops up when considering refurbished IT, yes, the equipment is just as reliable as new.

Like cars, with new IT products, most failures happen in the first few weeks after purchase. When you buy refurbished, any such teething problems will have been identified and resolved already – particularly as most equipment has been through stringent checks.

When buying refurbished, look for a company that offers you the reassurance that they have tested it to your configuration before it is shipped to you – this doesn’t always happen when you buy new, so it’s an added bonus.

A ‘good’ refurbished IT reseller will make it their priority to have robust quality controls in place to ensure each device is thoroughly tested and inspected before it is resold. This includes testing all hardware components, running diagnostic tests, and verifying that the device meets the original manufacturer's specifications.

On the rare occasion that something does go wrong, if you buy from a reputable reseller, most refurbished equipment also comes with a warranty (in many cases matching that of the manufacturers), so if there is an issue it can be fixed or replaced, as if it were new.

If a piece of equipment does fail, instead of simply throwing money at purchasing a brand-new replacement, a more cost-effective and sustainable approach would be to replace the faulty parts with refurbished parts. This approach can increase the longevity of the product, as well as provide opportunity for upgrading storage, memory, or CPU, all while also reducing the impact on the environment.

Generational differences

In terms of performance, most businesses would never notice any difference between a 14th gen and 15th gen server. Therefore, if a business doesn’t use IT to run mission critical infrastructure, refurbished equipment would be the sensible option. In terms of scalability, it will be the same with refurbished as it would be if you bought new. Even modular systems that are generations old are still compatible with newer servers.

Another key benefit is how much businesses could potentially save when buying refurbished over new.

Typically, if you are comparing a current model to a refurbished option on a like-for-like basis, you’ll usually save about 30-50%. Some of the largest savings can usually be found when buying either switches, hard drives, or a previous generation of server – in these cases, discounts of 70-75% are not unusual.

Supply chain challenges

As we all know, the impact from the global supply chain and chip crisis is causing a lot of delays for manufacturers across the board, and there are no signs of this trend changing anytime soon. As a result, current lead times for new servers can be up to eight weeks, and for switches and storage arrays, this can be several months.

In contrast, refurbished IT doesn’t have the same delay, with shipping times usually measured in days rather than months. This makes refurbished the ideal solution for when you need to extend your IT capabilities and don’t have luxury of waiting.

Energy hungry

With refurbished IT known for its green benefits to support the circular economy, a question we are often asked is whether this is counteracted by the fact that older equipment uses more energy – and while this might have been an issue in the past, it is no longer the case.

Energy efficiency is largely equal from 13th generation onwards, with the same power supplies now used across multiple generations. 15th generation servers do use slightly less energy than 13th and 14th gen equivalents, but not so much that it offsets the carbon used to produce a new piece of equipment. And of course, when you buy refurbished equipment, it also prevents it from ending up as landfill.

Undoubtedly, refurbished IT is more climate, cost, and time friendly, which leaves the question, why buy new at all?

The new capital expensing policy for IT equipment, announced in the spring budget, is a positive step towards incentivising companies to invest in new hardware, and by allowing businesses to deduct this expense from taxable profits can provide a boost to the economy.

However, we must urge the government to consider the inclusion of refurbished IT equipment within this tax credit to promote sustainable practices and help achieve the UK’s net-zero target. This would contribute to the ever-expanding list of incentives for companies to choose refurbished IT and reinforce the UK's dedication to sustainability.

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