A More Sustainable IT Future:

The most underrated benefit of used servers

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Now more than ever, stakeholders are choosing to become more sustainable in every part of their business. Whether the goal is to narrow in on your ESG standards or help meet IT budgets during an unknown economic climate - used servers can be just what your business needs for a more sustainable tech future.

During supply chain issues, many IT users turned to the reuse industry because it was essentially their only option to get projects going without unbelievable delays. Now that the supply chain has slowly started reverting to what we would consider "normal”, IT users are choosing to stick with the refurbished enterprise IT industry.

Not only does equipment from a reliable reseller come like new, if not better, but it saves you and your company money while helping extend its lifespan - which in turn helps your sustainability efforts.

To truly understand why IT users are making used servers their top choice, it helps to answer two main questions that stakeholders ask when considering a used server.

Are used servers more sustainable?

Reuse is known as the highest form of recycling, making used the most sustainable option available for server buyers. By spending your resources on a used server, you are keeping another server from being newly manufactured. Not only does this help maximize your budget, but you are also helping reduce your e-waste and carbon footprint.

Modern carbon footprint calculators are factoring in “Scope 3” emissions (upstream and downstream factors). Your sustainability directors likely feel anxious about this change, and you can step in as the hero by working with them on reuse and life extension of your existing systems as well as planning downstream disposition with reuse demands.

IT buyers are beginning to make sure their downstream assets head for reuse rather than recycling, when possible. They’re buying more reused IT equipment, and they’re also leveraging used upgrade parts to beef up systems in order to extend their useful life. Get off the 3-4 year refresh merry-go-round, save money on used upgrade parts and show great corporate stewardship with your purchasing.

Do used servers use a lot of electricity/power?

Contrary to popular belief, used servers don't use a lot of electricity/power, particularly relative to any other servers.

Most people think that used servers use a lot of electricity, but the research shows that the operating cost of used equipment is significantly less than the electricity used by a manufacturer to produce brand-new units. As time goes on, power efficiency gains are leveling out, making used equipment and life extension of existing systems make even more sense.

Choosing to purchase a like-new server, and extend its overall lifespan, produces less electricity than buying directly from a manufacturer in almost every scenario.

Some IT users also say that older servers are considerably more inefficient than new servers, which causes a loss of power efficiency, but many reputable sources recognize that the power efficiency is typically marginal between new and used in any meaningful way. When choosing which option best fits your company, it's important to factor in initial (minor) efficiency gains versus the great energy and carbon footprint burden to manufacturing something brand new.

When it comes to IT, the green IT saying is now:

  • Extend
  • Reuse
  • Then Recycle

Should I reuse or recycle my used servers and excess IT?

Reuse is considered the highest form of recycling. Whether you can reuse your equipment internally or extend its life, or send it downstream for reuse by another company, reuse should always be the aim.

Companies also benefit from finding reuse-focused ITADs (IT Asset Disposition Companies) by getting paid for their excess equipment. There is a thriving global market for used servers and data center equipment that you can tap into.

Why pay for recycling when you can get paid for reuse? Between the savings and sustainability, it’s a double win!!

If you have to recycle your equipment, reach out to R2v3 certified companies, certified by SERI, to make sure the company is a “responsible recycler” and will properly process your equipment and handle sensitive data to standard.

Alta aims to reuse 95% of the inventory acquired, and then makes sure to send any unusable/unsellable equipment downstream to an R2 certified recycler.

Summary: Purchasing used servers is just one way you and your business can become more sustainable. Not only is buying used servers the sustainable choice but learning how to dispose of your current systems and parts will only add to your efforts. There are many ways to properly dispose of and recycle your current equipment for cash or trade-in: extending the life of your used systems and parts. Focus on IT life extension and reuse above all for savings and sustainability.

Additional Reading & Resources:

Author: Corey Donovan

Corey is a reuse advocate with 20 years experience in ITAD and serves as President of Alta Technologies, the gold standard for quality in testing and refurbishing servers, networking and data storage hardware, since 1995.

An active member of the Right-To-Repair movement, Corey also serves on the ASCDI Board, is a member of the Forbes Business Council, Vistage, SIA and UNEDA. He enjoys local adventures with his family and dog, Freya, near Minneapolis, MN.

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