I met with a law firm the other day and they had just purchased a server from a company that was going out of business. They were able to snag the hardware for a few hundred dollars. Obviously, this attorney wanted me to work with this hardware going forward instead of purchasing a new one. The problem was that the server was so old, the manufacturer would most likely no offer any warranty services for the server and would either refuse to work with us or offer a payment per issue option which can be expensive for aging servers.

Warranties are important because while you rely on your IT support to handle your law firm tech, it’s also a good idea to retain some control internally. With a warranty, a certified repair tech from your hardware manufacturer comes out to your location with parts and fixes your issue. With a serial number or service tag off your hardware, you always have the ability to call support and setup a tech to come onsite to fix an issue. This is support beyond your law firm IT services and it gives you a sense of control over your technology. This helps if you are between IT companies or feel you are too small to work with one as a retainer.

Warranties may offer same day or next day support as well as business hours only or 24/7 support. We usually purchase 24/7 same day support for our clients, but you can gauge your acceptable downtime and make a purchase from that info. If you can be down a day without issues, go for the next day service and same some bucks. If your office is closed on the weekends, perhaps a 10/5 support plan is for you so you can save even more bucks.

If a deal is to good to be true, it usually is. There’s a few things you have to think about before purchasing old and aging servers/workstations for your law firm…

 

1. How close is this hardware towards “end of life” in the eyes of the manufacturer?

Hardware manufacturers create hardware and with it, create a life cycle. The hardware life cycle varies between Dell, HP, Lenovo & IBM, but a good rule of thumb is 5yrs for desktops, 7 years for servers. What this means is that a manufacturer will not offer warranties past a hardware’s life cycle. Often they will offer pay per incident support which tends to get expensive over time which is why bot they and I prefer that you purchase new hardware rather than working with possibly unreliable hardware which will most definitely cause downtime. So if the hardware is close to the end of it’s life-cycle, you can almost bet on unreliable hardware and a fractional warranty, maybe 1 or 2 years if they’ll sell it to you. Evaluate how much downtime your willing to accept and make the decision. I’ll be honest with you, if the server is 4 years old with no warranty, in billing lost due to downtime and new warranty costs, you may find it cheaper just go buy new.

 

2. Is the hardware currently under warranty?

Let’s say that your buying used hardware from another company that’s only 2 or 3 years old. In my opinion 3 years is the max. Make sure you get the service tags or serial numbers off of the hardware and make sure the hardware is under warranty. You may find that your getting a good deal until you find out that you now have to pay for warranties for all your hardware. Again, the warranties will handle any and all hardware issues, a tech will come onsite and you can be back up on the next or same day. A desktop 3yr onsite hardware warranty will run around $150 but vary depending on the manufacturer. Servers are much more and can be between $500 and $1000 depending on the coverage.

 

The answers to these questions determine if your going to buy these used pieces of hardware or not. I’d say that used hardware has it’s place with smaller law firms, firms that don’t have the capital to purchase brand new tech setups. On the other hand, hosted solutions and server alternatives are gaining ground, are cheaper to maintain, and can have a quicker ROI. It’s something to most definitely think about.