September 2011

Reliability and Used Equipment

Reliability and Used Equipment

By: Maryann Von Seggern, Cisco Capital

In organizations large and small, purchasing decision makers consider refurbished equipment for their networks for a variety of reasons – price, availability, for network spares and maintenance, or compliance with “green” initiatives. The big question for most organizations is – how reliable and secure is used equipment? The answer is that used equipment can be as reliable and secure as new. However, buyers should make sure the equipment they purchase has gone through a high-quality inspection and refurbishing process to ensure that it operates to the same standards intended for new equipment.

When thinking about used or refurbished networking equipment, many people automatically draw comparisons to used mechanical equipment – worn, degraded performance and a short useful lifespan.

Unlike mechanical products, however, network equipment does not have moving parts (other than cooling fans and push button switches) that wear out. In addition, much of the functionality of advanced networking equipment is software and firmware driven. Used equipment, when refurbished properly, loaded with up-to date-firmware and software, and operated within the product specifications, can be expected to operate reliably over the duration of the intended product lifespan.

With many available sources of used and refurbished products in the marketplace, a more relevant concern for IT managers should be “What should I consider proper refurbishment?”

Currently, there are no industry standards established which define refurbished equipment. The reality is that different vendors use different processes, parts, levels of rigor and quality acceptance standards to refurbish the equipment they sell. In the absence of true industry standards, vendors signal the quality of their refurbished equipment in different ways such as the descriptions of their refurbishment levels, their use of ISO certified processes, or by providing longer warranties or service. However, IT and purchasing managers need to look deeper and understand the factors involved in proper refurbishment, how it contributes to equipment reliability and the differences in the processes among the various vendors. Only then can the context of program names, ISO certified processes, and warranties and services be understood and applied to the purchase decision.

Smart IT and purchasing managers will never risk the security and resilience of their network with questionable second-hand gear. They should expect the performance and reliability of refurbished equipment products to be the same as new equipment, and should look to IT vendors who have developed and applied a comprehensive and rigorous approach to “properly remanufacture” used equipment to ensure that the products it markets and sells operate reliably over their expected lifetime. Refurbishing should only be completed by the manufacturer, as third parties can expose equipment to additional risk. Purchasing managers should also seek out IT vendors that produce the same warranty as the corresponding new product and the same full technical support.

There are several chief reasons why companies find refurbished equipment attractive. First, particularly for large enterprises, is the demand for infrastructure homogeneity; in other words, they want consistency across the network portfolio, because it is much easier to manage and there are more efficiencies of scale. If you need to replace a few pieces of equipment or update your network but don’t have the budget to buy the latest networking gear, your business can trust refurbished equipment to meet security and compliance concerns. Another driver is availability: you may need the equipment now, but the new model is back-ordered. For purchasing decision makers faced with limited budgets that need to address increased network security concerns, stronger compliance guidelines, and service and support challenges, refurbished equipment is an attractive option. Finally, of course, price sensitivity is always a factor.

In summary, remember that refurbished networking equipment is not the same as used mechanical equipment and, in fact, can be expected to operate reliably if loaded with up-to-date firmware and software. The large variety of sources for, and lack of general industry standards on refurbished products mean that IT and purchasing managers have many factors to consider when buying used equipment. Stick with a vendor who will stand behind their refurbished equipment with a warranty. Finally, be mindful of whom you’re buying refurbished equipment from. Make sure that you do sufficient research to ensure you’re purchasing from a reputable IT vendor so that you get what you pay for – a reliable system of highly inspected and refurbished equipment to ensure that your network stays up and your business keeps running smoothly.

About the Author
Maryann Von Seggern is Senior Director of Pre-Owned Equipment for Cisco Capital. She is responsible for Cisco Capital’s Remarketing and Inventory Management line of business, driving value to Cisco and Cisco Capital. Von Seggern handles all facets of strategy and execution including the new branding of the line of business and direct engagement with the Cisco Channel organization. Over the past year, Von Seggern has been recognized with a variety of industry awards, including the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, the CRN Power 100 Awards: The Most Powerful Women of the Channel and the CRN Channels Chief recognition.