Grey servers: should you buy secondhand?

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With prices up to 70% lower than those from manufacturers' lists, grey market servers can be an almost irresistible temptation for businesses looking to cut costs.

Servers in the grey market come from a number of sources, most of which are not from official networks and often come with little or no guarantee of quality. Buying from this source may even be illegal, as in some cases the supplier may not have paid the due VAT, which could mean the servers could be seized by the authorities.

The last survey of the grey IT market from KPMG stated: "For end customers, faced with the sometimes daunting task of discerning which entities are authorised to sell genuine goods and which are doing so through correct channels, a decision based solely on price may be the best bet.

"But that bet could go awry fast since grey market dealers or brokers are often not authorised to resell these products, nor are they required to uphold the standards of product quality and service generally required by a manufacturer of authorized dealers.

"As a result of purchasing grey market products from unauthorised resellers, end customers could wind up with major data loss, business interruption, or worse."

The advice is certainly not to only buy new servers, as there is a buoyant market in refurbished equipment. Care must be taken to ensure that the servers that are purchased come from a legitimate source, and have the appropriate warranties and after sales services that your business will need.

Server developers are not ignoring increased financial pressures on businesses, and now offer a number of options when servers need to be purchased.

Dell, for instance, has its own outlet that specialises in refurbished hardware that includes servers. It offers tower, rack and blade servers in its outlet, with the same customer service support as new equipment but a limited warranty.

Buying from a recognised supplier will give your business the security it needs to purchase the servers that are required, and have none of the worries that buying servers from other grey sources may bring.

If your business is offered very cheap servers, this should raise suspicion, as servers like other premium products in the IT market have a certain level of value. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

In these circumstances you should ask whether your business could afford to take the risk with these servers. Ultimately, using official outlets from recognised server developers can reduce costs, as they all now offer fully refurbished servers with the all important warranties and after sales services.