Data Centers

Refurbished servers - good deal or something to avoid?

The economy is down and IT budgets are shrinking. How do you keep moving forward and providing enhanced value to the organization while, at the same time, your budget is heading toward zero? Scott Lowe explains how refurbished servers might help you stretch your budget dollars.

Although the economy is not exactly in great shape these days and the news of downsizing keeps coming, organizations must continue business as usual as much as possible.  That means that IT in those organizations needs to keep forging ahead.  Of course, this also means that servers need to be upgraded and replaced and new servers need to be installed in order for the organization to continue to implement new technology initiatives.  If your server budget is shrinking and the expectations on your services have not kept pace, how can you keep up?

Note: I'm going to focus on Dell refurbished equipment here since I've had quite a lot of experience with them.

Refurbished servers can provide you with a great way to keep the upgrade cycle in place at a lower cost than buying new servers.  Often sold for much less than new equipment, refurbished servers generally carry the same warranties as brand new equipment and can sometimes be available more quickly since they do not need to be built.

For example, at Westminster College, we use Dell M600 blade servers.  Our current servers are configured with dual quad core 2.33 GHz Xeon processors with 32GB of RAM and two 73GB SAS disks.  A few months ago, before the M600's were available in the Dell refurbished store, we paid around $4,000 for each blade server with this configuration.  Last night, in perusing the Dell refurb store, I found M600's with dual quad core 2.8 GHz Xeons processors and 32 GB of RAM for less than $2,500.  That difference is pretty significant.  If you need a lot of servers, the difference can add up very quickly.

On the downside, if you start buying refurbished equipment, it's more difficult to buy servers with a consistent configuration.  You get what you get, as it were.  If you need ten servers and you hit the store at the right time, you might get lucky, but you can't count on it.

The main worry with regard to refurbished equipment lies in the warranty service and stability.  As I mentioned, Dell refurbished equipment usually ships with the same warranty that would be included with new equipment.  Further, you can choose to extend the warranty for an additional charge.  As for stability, speaking from experience, I've never had a bit of trouble with any of the servers I've purchased refurbished.  In addition to servers, I've also purchased a number of refurbished Dell desktop computers, laptops and storage devices.


  • You can save a whole lot of money by buying refurbished equipment
  • The equipment usually includes the same warranty as new equipment


  • You may not be able to locate the exact equipment configuration that you need
  • There is a stigma attached to the word "refurbished"

If you're buying in large volume, you may not be able to get a better deal in the refurb store, but it definitely doesn't hurt to check, and you may be able to extend that shrinking budget just a little further.


Have a topic idea or question you'd like me to address or answer in a future post?  Email me directly right here at


Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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