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Bill Champness: "You may only wait three to six months before your desired hardware crops up on a refurbished seller site"

Why is 'refurbished' such a dirty word?

Bill Champness says refurbished IT can be a saviour for stretched resources in the education sector

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 13, 2015 | Technology

It’s that time of year where many of you, bursars, head teachers and heads of departments, start to look at resourcing and spend. With schools facing increased costs amounting to 4.5% due to pay rises, National Insurance contributions and pension deficits, it’s no wonder that more than 90% of 1,000 head teachers surveyed by the ASCL say that their finances are going to be critically under pressure for 2015/2016.

As a business owner for the last 17 years, I get it. How can I improve our service while keeping our staff happy and giving them the right tools for the job? As a father of two I also get the need to provide our children with the very best to assist with their learning. But the look of distaste at the sheer mention of refurbished IT is as if someone has put salt in your coffee – not just offered you four refurbished PCs for the price of one brand new one! This is a saving which could mean you no longer have to keep juggling your resources.

Not such a dirty word

The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that schools in the UK will face up to 12% real term cuts over the next Parliament while forecasts suggest pupil numbers will increase by seven percent, a result of migration and higher birth rates. With a lot of rapidly diminishing funds being ring-fenced for more important things such as paying for teaching staff and replacing those leaving at the end of the academic year, priorities such as new desktop PCs move further down the list. However, keeping your ICT running is vital for learning opportunities.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to see the obvious savings in purchasing refurbished PCs rather than brand new ones. For example, the cost of one brand new Dell Optiplex is £300 – you can get four of those same machines for £300 by simply switching your purchasing preferences.

Sometimes, refurbished laptops and PCs haven’t yet been taken out of the box, or they might have been taken out, looked at and put back, barely handled. As Gizmodo recently highlighted: “An analysis of outlet stores and other refurb dealers reveals that 'refurbished' laptops that have been used are most likely returns that have been in circulation 30 days or less.” The reason it is then referred to as ‘refurbished’ is that with any hardware return, regardless of fault it has to be legally sold as a ‘return’ or a second. So you could be getting brand new equipment for 50% or more of the original price. 

Refurbished hardware also means that if you have your mind set on a particular brand but the spec you want is out of your price range, you can think again. Often you’ll find reconditioned products as at fraction of the original price. We’ve helped many schools save as much as 80% on laptop and desktop spend.

So how new is new? Maybe you do really want the newest model and you don’t want to compromise. If you wait a little while, you could get exactly what you want at a much better price. HP and Dell both report very quick turnaround times for their refurbished goods, meaning you may only wait three to six months before your desired hardware crops up on a refurbished seller site.

The two to three-year itch

Some of you reading this will recognise the conundrum - every few years, many IT departments get that familiar itch, to replace older desktops and hardware for sleeker new models with higher processing powers, impressive looks and better software. But what are the implications of dumping these systems, and do you really need to? Or are you just following the IT crowd? 

Every year, the UK throws away an estimated two million tonnes of electrical waste or e-waste. It’s a problem that’s growing exponentially world-wide with 50 million tonnes of e-waste generated last year – that’s over seven kilograms for every person on the planet! Environmentally, if computer hardware is just dumped in landfill, it can have wide-reaching effects with electronic goods containing toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.

The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment) Regulations aim to stop old computer equipment going into landfills. This puts the onus on the ‘producer’, meaning that the manufacturer/distributor or reseller of the technology must take back and dispose of safely, or recycle the computer components through designated collection facilities.

But as e-waste is growing at three times the rate of any other rubbish, it’s time that we took a step back and thought – do we really need to dump this? Think about the reasons you’re throwing away your old IT equipment. Is it because it has served its time or because newer models have caught your eye?

Cliff Saran made the case that you could be disposing of old computers with years of use still left in them: “…thanks to Moore’s Law, the processing power of PCs – even those three or more years old – is easily adequate for running desktop productivity and non-CPU-intensive business applications on Windows… there is little need for businesses to use high-performance machines that harness the latest in PC technology if they only browse the web and use email.”

We’ve worked with many IT departments that replace individual computers as needed rather than working to the ‘replace all’ concept that many subscribe to.

So as you can see refurbed doesn’t mean antiquated, abused and battered bits of hardware. It means reconditioned laptops, desktops, tablets and spares that are re-engineered for longevity. It also means that, whatever your budget, you can be sure to deliver more for your school, your team of hardworking staff and most importantly, for your students, without having to make any unnecessary cuts.

Bill Champness is Managing Director of Hardware Associates Ltd.    

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