In the modern data center, technology advances at breakneck speed. Because of such rapid advances, when and how to sell old computers, servers, CPUs becomes more and more complicated.
Only a few short years ago, the average server in a data center could be expected to remain in service for as long as a decade, assuming that it was well-maintained and upgraded as necessary. Today, however, rapidly increasing hardware demands imposed by ever-expanding internet-connected services has pushed the average server lifespan down to a short three years.
That shortening of the equipment replacement cycle is putting more pressure than ever on data center managers to find ways to contain ballooning equipment costs, without sacrificing functionality or falling behind the times. Today, that’s no small task. According to IT industry research firm Gartner, data center systems spending is expected to decrease by .2% in 2019, further squeezing already tight budgets.
The good news is that for every data center that removes a server from active use to replace it with a newer model, there are hundreds of other businesses for whom that retired server might be a perfect fit. Even in situations where the retired hardware isn’t fully functional, it may still be possible to sell the individual working components to turn a substantial profit.
To shed some light on the process of selling decommissioned servers and equipment, here are four tips to help data center managers succeed in turning their retired hardware into a valuable revenue stream.
4 Tips on How to Sell Old Computers and Other IT Equipment:
Tip 1 – Selling in Bulk is Optimal
In most data centers, the replacement of servers and other hardware follows a planned cycle (barring equipment failure), designed to coincide with the expiration of maintenance and service contracts on the hardware, and a cost/benefit analysis regarding the ongoing costs of upkeep.
It also means that there’s an excellent likelihood of larger quantities of similar hardware being decommissioned all at once. That creates the opportunity to sell the decommissioned equipment in bulk, which will not only reduce the in-house management workload of the process but also could fetch the highest return.
When it comes to servers, this is where a three-year replacement cycle can turn out to be valuable. That’s because at five years of age, servers begin to see a significant drop-off in value, owing to the rapid development pace of new hardware.
When selling servers in bulk at three years of age, the internal components should be in fine working order and still well within their useful lifetime, so they still retain plenty of value on the resale market. An ITAD specialist or bulk purchaser will also generally include shipping or pick-up for the entire lot of hardware and pay in full upon acceptance of the lot.
Tip 2 – Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
In many cases, retired hardware that is still useful but approaching obsolescence might be more valuable when broken down into individual components. For example, CPUs may have a longer useful lifespan than hard drives and are typically the most expensive component in a given server.
That’s good news for data center managers looking to recover some value from their retired servers. Removing valuable components like CPUs and discrete graphics hardware and selling them either as a lot or individually can help recoup some costs from hardware that would otherwise be written off for a loss.
Although there are bound to be components that won’t fetch a high price when going this route, it is a far better option than opting for costly disposal. Component sales are also a great option when in-between replacement cycles when CPU and memory upgrades are performed on in-service systems to keep them viable for as long as possible.
With careful planning, it may be possible to use component resales as a source of upgrade funding, which is a critical aspect of maximizing tight capital expenditure budgets.
Tip 3 – Compliance Has Costs, Too
Data center managers know that decommissioning equipment isn’t a simple matter of replacement and disposal. When removing systems from active use, additional steps like data destruction and storage sanitation, disassembly, and proper handling of e-waste must be taken to avoid costly future problems.
One need only look at examples like AT&T’s $52 million payout that resulted from improper handling of hardware disposal to see that the cost of getting the process wrong can be steep. The labor and oversight necessary to properly dispose of retired equipment can add significant costs to an already losing proposition.
It is possible, however, to avoid those costs while maintaining legal and ethical compliance – and turn a profit when disposing of old equipment. Engaging the services of an e-waste recycling specialist is an excellent way to turn a costly and labor-intensive disposal process into another opportunity to recover some of the hardware’s initial costs.
A well-resourced e-waste recycler can extract every bit of value from the hardware they process, from reconditioning parts to extracting the precious metals used in the fabrication of PCBs and other components. They will also be able to provide guaranteed data destruction (with documentation) and will be certified by relevant local authorities in their handling of hazardous waste. At the end of the process, they’ll even share a portion of the proceeds.
Tip 4 – Flipping the Switch
It’s also important to realize that servers aren’t the only major components of a data center that are beginning to see a shorter replacement cycle. These days, heavier usage patterns and virtualization are demanding ever-higher data throughput all across data center networks.
That is forcing many data center managers to refresh networking equipment at a pace that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Those refreshes can come in the form or replacing whole core switches or upgrading individual modules to higher-capacity models wherever possible.
Unlike servers, though, switches don’t reach end-of-life status right away, which means that they retain plenty of resale value over longer periods of time. That also makes them prime candidates for offsetting upgrade costs. Enterprise-grade switches, routers, firewalls, and management engines are well suited for resale markets and should fetch decent prices.
Even individual components like fiber channel adapters and optical transceivers retain plenty of value, due to their wide use creating a steady demand. Networking equipment resales will also likely be a more frequent occurrence going forward, as data centers switch to commodity hardware and greater use of server-based routing solutions – so there’s never been a better time to turn over high-end networking gear.
Recap – An Evergreen Resource
The key takeaway here is that decommissioned data center servers and equipment can serve as a steady source of reclaimed funds at almost every stage of their lifecycles. What’s more, building resale or recycling procedures into equipment replacement planning can change the entire equation for data center managers that are trying to balance staying ahead of the curve with not breaking the bank.
In an era where data center demand continues to grow, capital expenditures are beginning to shrink, and industry competition is fierce – every dollar counts, and there’s no such thing as disposable assets. Now you should know exactly how to make sure your data center gets every last cent out of its most valuable resources.
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