Purchasing a refurbished Server?

Posted on 2009-04-21
Last Modified: 2012-06-27
Hi all.  
Simple one here.  Of course yes or no is a great answer, but I would love to hear your why?  
Know any good or bad stories from anyone who has purchased a refurbished server product - from a brand like HP?  Or other major brand?
I am in the market for a new box.  But times are tight, you know...
And I don't know much about HP's servers - other than seeing the names and models in tons of posts here on EE (DL, GL)...

While at their site - I came across this page:

Havent actually done too much homework on the savings, am more wondering if its even a smart move to consider.  Certainly people are doing it - or else it wouldnt exist.  But would you do it?  Would you put your main Exchange install on one?
Or do you see this more as an option for testing, teaching, etc?

I have purchased tons of refurb laptops for employees and clients - but they were never critical machines...

Anyway - I will be quiet now and hope to hear some stories good or bad and or some recommendations - like "well, instead of buying refurb HP, why not________"

Thanks in advance!
Question by:mmorocco
    LVL 17

    Accepted Solution

    I've had great luck with factory refurbished servers.  I've had one Dell that came bad and stayed that way, but the rest have been solid.  I usually get a bonus such as better hardware or the newest firmware.
    LVL 95

    Assisted Solution

    by:Lee W, MVP
    In my experience, most refurbs are not saving THAT much money.  Frankly, if the server will be doing something of any importance (and most servers do), I would NOT recommend using a refurb.

    My logic is this:
    Refurbs tend to be one of the following:
    *Returns where the original purchaser didn't realize they ordered the wrong thing.
    *Demo units
    *Returns where the original purchaser had problems with the system - the manufacturer CLAIMS to have resolved the issues.

    The problem I have is that I've seen too many "weird little issues" when purchasing refurbished ANYTHINGS.  I would say 60-70% of the time, the product is fine... but is it really acceptable to you that roughly 1 in 3 may have a strange problem that doesn't manifest itself except seemingly randomly, perhaps once a week?  The headaches that COULD happen mean the 5-10% savings of buying a refurb is simply not worth it.

    I cannot speak for HP, but in the case of Dell, NEVER PAY WEB SITE PRICE FOR A SERVER, WORKSTATION, LATITUDE, or OPTIPLEX system.  You avoid those prices by getting yourself a business sales rep who can quote you the price on a system.  So while a Refurb Dell may list for, say $2000 with config X and the same config on the web site is listed for $2800 new, if you get a quote from a Dell sales rep, you LIKELY get a price of $2100 NEW - so that refurb saved you a whopping $100 (probably).
    LVL 32

    Assisted Solution

    I'm with Leew on buying through a business rep at Dell.

    If you're looking for HP and can't take the risk with a return/refurb. look for a big re-seller with lots of inventory.  I've bought two HP 4u rackmounts from CDW...brand new at cheap prices because they were 9-month-old inventory making way for the newer models.

    Saved 25% over the new model, which didn't have any "must-have" technology.  Use a rep at CDW.  They have inside support people for every type of technology.

    When a client had a major server crash (taking out their entire MRP system) I had parts shipped to the location on a Saturday and built up a new server, racked it, and powered it on in under one hour.  The rep (and his team) made sure that all the SKUs were compatible, and one of the techs even caught a fan that I had missed.  Got me the best price possible on every part (lower than my usual discount) and even shipped it cheaper than using my own FedEx account.
    LVL 5

    Expert Comment

    We sell the HP refurb units all the time.  If you find the right supplier for the units, we're talking more than 1/2 price (buy price). When you can get a full blone storage server for like 4k that has a few TB of SAS drives, i really can't complain.

    The ones we get have a FULL warranty, so things like DL380's etc have a full 3 year next business day warranty for date of invoice.

    I will say one thing though, if we count up all the refurbs and all the new units we've sold, we have had more issues with the refurbs. I'm not saying that they all screw up or anything, i'm just saying one in every x will tend to need to have HP called apon (even for something tiny) after a year or two (but fully covered under warrenty).

    VERDECT: If you have budget, go brand new. If you have price limitations, got the refurb....

    2 major players for servers IBM and HP - everything else is not worth it.
    LVL 17

    Expert Comment

    I think that no matter who you talk to, you will get a different response.  I would imagine that you are on a limited budget to be considering refurbs so the best I can do is give you a couple things to look for:

    Must have standard warranty (this is common from the big manufacturers)
    Must have the same components as are/were available when purchasing the server new (Their engineers are tasked with making sure that components play nice with each other)
    Must have a good lemon exchange policy (once again, this is common from the big manufacturers)
    Must include the diagnosis sheet from when it was returned with a description of any repairs done
    LVL 55

    Assisted Solution

    Most of these referbs come from leasing upgrades and buy new / send old one back. I'm certainly not with leew on this one, HP at least don't send a new server out as a replacement and sell the old one as a referb. They replace bits ad infinitum rather than supply a new box if the old one is dodgy. You're effectively buying a server that has been soak tested for 3 years, should be solid as a rock.

    One caveat is refurbished hard disks and fans, they have moving parts and so may wear out, but apart from that all the design faults the manufacturer has learnt about have been eliminated.

    HP had a few PSU problems over the years (who doesn't) but your PSUs will be 3 years old so all the bugs will be ironed out. QA inspectors wil have looked at all the caps on the motherboard so you're not going to get one with bulging electrolytics.

    Author Comment

    WOW!  Perfect!
    This is exactly what I was looking for.  Solid advice from real professionals from both sides of the fence.

    A few comments back, as I am keeping this one open to hear more from you and others.

    I have 2 servers, 1 workhorse - and another that is strictly for backup and DR and for the most part mirrors my main box (so I guess you could say I have 1 server) and am in need of a 3rd (2nd).  I want to get my Exchange off my overloaded box which happens to be my DC (i know, i know, bad...).  So I am looking for something to run Win2k8 64 and Exch07 (only about 3 dozen mailboxes, lots of public folders and calendars, lots of OWA - but still, peanuts compared to posts I read about "we have 700 users...").  And that will be all it really needs to do, just do that and do it well and I would be happy.  But how do you shop for just enough when buying a server - you have to plan for the future, right?  I do have the option of re-config my backup, which is severely underutilized since it is just a backup - and then replace that with an entry-level box.  But anyway - I have other posts about all that...

    but thats where I am coming from in all this.

    Budget has never been an issue until this past year.  And while the right pitch to the boss and he would say yes to if i told him was best for his business - I was hoping to make this purchase a little less painful, because I need to start "saving" for a SAN.

    My other two servers are more on the custom side, as opposed to big-box brand.  I hear lots good about HP and IBM and Dell.  I would consider HP and IBM.  I like both of them and other products they sell have always treated me right and so has their standing by their product.  I have yet to try and learn about IBM classes of server, but am headed there next.

    I do business with CDW and they have definitely proved worthy of more business. Their sales reps are knowledgeable, responsive and yes they have experts on most everything.  They have great prices on new servers, and so that's what got me started.

    I started shopping for an "entry-level" box that had upgrade potential - thinking I could spread the expenditures out over time.  Get a unit with 1 cpu but that would accept a 2nd Maybe not fill up all drive bays or go with huge drives (just fast ones), start minimal on the RAM, etc.  (i did this with my original box, started with 1 cpu and now have 2 and started with 4GB RAM - now up to 12, went from 500GB to 750 drives due to a somewhat fortunate disaster).  

    I literally stumbled upon this refurb site looking around HP to learn more about the DL vs GL etc because I know nothing about their server classes.  And i said to myself this could be good in two ways - I could get approval easier from the boss, and I could get more server for the money.

    --I would only buy refurbished direct from manufacturer and would accept nothing less than the same warranty as a new box, and i believe HP does this.
    --I do like the idea about pushing big resellers like my CDW rep about what they might be trying to push out the door, since I don't need (i just want) the latest and greatest.  
    --Interesting point about "used" vs. tested andyalder - i never thought of that.

    So I guess its about budget, need for certain type or class of technology (since you cant find everything refurb, and its not like I want to wait around for a certain level or config to come avail.) and a little bit of rolling the dice.

    I suppose you could get a new box that could be a lemon just as easily as a refurb...well not just as easily - but its all up to when Murphy's law will strike again.

    This has all been super helpful.  I will keep this one going for a fwe to see who else might want to chime in or if any of you has any additional comments...points will be added and divided amongst you.


    Author Comment

    Hi all - just wondering if there is any follow-up on this?  I just posted a related question I guess you could call it asking for recommendation on a config for HP server.
    Havent ruled out the refurb - but depending on what I need and can swing budget-wise - i am still planning new...

    If nothing comes through on this I will close it within the next day with another round of thanks to all for the help and advice!
    LVL 5

    Expert Comment

    Our 'bread and butter' is designing and implementing network infrastructures utilizing only HP servers.

    I can give you recommendations if you can provide the following answers for me:

    - How many users to connect to the system?
    - How much storage is required (acutal storage, i'm not talking to store ISO files and junk on the server)?
    - What services are going to be run (eg DC, file server, exchange, sql etc or all of the above)?
    - Any special application requirements?
    - Do you currently own or are willing to own a rack?
    - Do you have a server room or is it out in the open (eg noise level of servers)?

    This should give me a base line of what you should get.

    Author Comment

    This would be extremely helpful!  I have several other posts out there trying to get to figuring out where I should go next and help with what and how to choose.  I just put up a post dealing with questions primarily about HP servers:

    ID 24357052 - please do check it out as someone who knows HP this question would be tailored to you and you could probably help out greatly!

    - The goal and need for another box is Exchange (for now, who knows what if anything in the future).  I get the feeling the more I read the better it is to isolate Exchange totally.  So I wouldnt do much else with this box, unless someone gave me the ok.  OK, well, my BES server would go on it also I suppose.  But otherwise I would try and keep it as clean as possible.
    - Right now I am on Exch2003, but am looking to upgrade to 07, using Win2k8
    - I already have a DC and a Backup DC.  I have my fileserver, which also supports a couple minor apps.  I could throw ACT on with Exchange maybe - but I don't know if I like SQL and Exchange together either?!
    - On any given day there are a dozen desktops going, about 2 dozen users - some OWA, some RDC.
    - Our heaviest 'traffic' if you could call it that is use of Public Folders (20-25), Public Task Lists (2-3), Public Calendars (2-3).
    - I do own a rack.  However, I  really prefer to go Tower (with rackmount kit) for noise purposes.  My 1st server is a 1U - and it is in a smallish room with 1-2 employees - and they deserve a break.  
    - Somewhere down the road from now - or maybe even with this purchase - I intend on re-purposing that 1U just to get it out of that room and spare everyone the sound that i have put them through for 3 years.  (although, compared to the shaky iffy sneakernet that was there before me I hope it has paid off)
    - As for Storage - my minimum I would say would be 2TB usable.  I have 4 750s on a RAID 5 now and I am often archiving to hard drive and Tape (HP 1/8 G2 Autoloader) to keep that manageable (they are only 7200 SATAs).  
    - Budget is of course a concern.  So, while I know I could use a SAN - not gonna happen this year.  The boss wanted to buy a mobile a/v kit - and so he did, and so there went that plan...

    Please do check out the post I put above.  And if you are inclined - I would appreciate getting your 2 cents on not only whether I should be following the path of simply buying now for Exchange to lessen the load of my other units- or whether I should be looking at a network re-configuration?

    ID 24204421
    ID 24257947

    These 2 posts basically tell you most everything about my environment and about my other 2 servers.

    Much appreciated in advance!!!
    LVL 5

    Assisted Solution

    Hi mmorocco,

    Your not going to really load that exchange server with only about 25 users, so you don't have to go too crazy with hardware straight up.

    You'll want a ML series HP as they'll run more quite than your DL series, although don't forget that you'll have to price yourself a rack mount kit on top of the server amount and it'll utilize much more space in your rack (eg DL380 = 2U, ML350 = 4/5U).

    Stick with the 3.5" drives (as the server will have both 2.5" and 3.5" options) as they'll be cheaper.

    Exchange 2007 like to chew the RAM a bit and after you add anti-spam/anti-virus and BES then you'll want a minimum of 4GB.

    ML350 G5
    Dual or Quad core CPU
    4-6 GB RAM
    3x 146GB 3.5" SAS Drives
    Redundant power supply
    Redundant fan hit
    * If you can get the 'HPM' option, then go for these as they'll include all the redundant gear and 2x CPU's.

    A few notes:
    - You can't expand a system paritition (in windows), so create 1 logical drive in a RAID 5 with both C:\ and D:\ drives (personally use 40-50GB for C: as Windows 2008 takes 10GB by itself), and store the Exchange mail store on the D:\.  This will allow you to add extra disks to the server, expand the array, then expand the partition to increase the size of your exchange server moving forward.
    - This is based on the following roles for the server:  Windows 2008 Server, Exchange 2007, BES, anti-spam, anti-virus and configured as DC.
    - It will work but i won't put SQL based products on the same box personally as they are both memory intensive and for what your looking to achieve, leave it off it (anti-virus using MSDE or SQL Express is usually OK as they are optimized for the install eg your installing AV for exchange server or enabling an exchange option as they are expecting you to use it on an exchange box).
    - If you were using the server as a file server i would recommend getting 2x RAID 1 for the OS then 3x RAID 5 for the data storage and that'll be very high I/O on the hard disks, but for the amount of users your running, this shouldn't be required.

    I'd go straight for Windows 2008 Server with Exchange 2007 off the batt as i don't like doing software upgrades and always like a clean install (personal preference).  Get the server, set it up and play with it, and when u've mastered 2007, blow it away and install it clean from your notes. Exchange 2007 is quite different than 2003, so if you haven't had any experience with it, there are a couple of quirks with it, but i would highly recommend it as it kicks butt!!

    These are general recommendations, and i know they work in practice as we've done this install many times before with excellent performance.

    Will take a look at the other post as soon as i get a chance.

    Hope that helps :)

    Author Comment

    Q - this is fantastic.
    gotta run at the moment - but hoping you will take a minute to look at those other posts...and once you see/know a little more about the rest of my setup maybe see what you would do if you were taking over or walking into my shoes...
    yes, you will see how green i am at all this - but also hopefully that i am a fast learner to be where i am today.
    looking forward to hearing from you.
    I have comments on the above and will get back as soon as can.

    Author Closing Comment

    sorry how the points split went!  I meant to increase in order to spread it around better!  hopefully i will have opportunity to make it up to you all somewhere...

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