So you’ve decided that purchasing pre-owned Cisco hardware is the best choice for you and your network. That’s great!
It’s definitely a wise decision to employ refurbished Cisco equipment anywhere and everywhere it makes sense for you. It’s a great way to save money and a smart way to stretch an already thin budget even further.
But now that you’ve made that wise decision, it’s time to make yet another. You have to realize that not all used Cisco hardware is created equal. Some is quality equipment that has been tested, refurbished and certified. On the other hand, though, some of it is untested, unreliable and potentially counterfeit.
How can you tell the difference? Look at your vendor. It’s fairly easy for almost anyone to buy used Cisco equipment from brokers, then turn around and sell it at a profit to end-users claiming it’s “refurbished.” What sets reputable vendors apart is an unwavering commitment to quality, which manifests itself in a number of ways.
How can you tell? Ask these questions about the way they describe their Cisco hardware offerings:
The first step any decent vendor should do is test the hardware they’ve acquired before they sell it to you. There are a number of levels of testing they could employ, but ideally you want your vendor to really put their product through its paces.
How thorough are they? Do they do diagnostic testing? Do they set up a live network environment to re-create actual working conditions? Do they reset configurations? And what about those Cisco phones you need? Do they test full functionality and clean every phone, or do they just plug it in and dial a number or two? Are you just getting dirty phones that may or may not have every feature functioning?
The point is any decent, reputable vendor is going to spend a bit of time and effort testing the Cisco equipment they sell you. Otherwise how can you be confident that what you get has any chance of actually working?
A warranty is a great way to know exactly what a vendor thinks of their product. If they aren’t confident that they’re providing quality used Cisco hardware, they won’t back it with a decent warranty. Get choosy. Look for vendors that offer years’ worth in their warranties. Ideally, you can get a true lifetime warranty. Then you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your vendor stands behind their refurbished Cisco equipment not just for a couple years, but for the product’s lifetime.
If they test their hardware with thorough and stringent measures, they should definitely keep track of how reliable their finished product is. Your goal should be to acquire product that has a reliability rating well over 99%. No refurbished Cisco equipment should have a failure rate any larger than 0.5%. If your vendor can’t stand behind a solid reliability rating, then they can’t give you any guarantee that what they provide you will function.
Cisco products are highly counterfeited. Look for a vendor who doesn’t get their used Cisco equipment from online auction sites, where counterfeit trading is rampant. Plus, the people that test the Cisco hardware need to be trained to be able to visually spot, and test for, counterfeit items. If your vendor isn’t employing a counterfeit abatement process, you’re taking a huge chance of getting suspect product.
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is that little shock you get when someone rubs their feet on a carpeted floor and touches you. But these “little” shocks are actually a big issue when it comes to your refurbished Cisco hardware. Even in a testing facility, ESD hazards abound. A mere 100-volt discharge is enough to damage sensitive technology components, but get this: a human can’t even detect an ESD spark until the charge is at least 3,000 volts. That’s why your vendor absolutely needs to employ electrostatic discharge prevention methods. If they don’t they could be damaging that Cisco switch you’re about to buy and not even know it.
In order to accomplish the highly technical testing procedures required to offer you top quality refurbished Cisco equipment, your vendor will require some kind of testing facility. Find out what kind of locations they have. Are they just in a tiny office, or, worse yet, someone’s living room? Locations like this won’t suffice. A larger testing facility that can handle the kind of live network set-ups necessary to really scrutinize your Cisco hardware is what to look for. And better yet, if it also has a warehouse area where they can hold some inventory, then that means you’ll probably get your Cisco hardware quicker. That’s a win-win!
A big indication of the pride a vendor takes in their offerings is how they ship them to you. Would you ship a piece of art by throwing it in a box with some newspaper or packing peanuts? I don’t think so. Same concept with your Cisco hardware vendor. If their equipment is truly top-notch, they should ship it using quality, sophisticated means.
They should use foam-in-place packaging on those Cisco routers and switches. They should box every Cisco phone separately and hold it in place with stabilizing plastic film. If they don’t, it’s probably a pretty good clue that they don’t take very much pride in their hardware. After all, it’s only good if it arrives at your facility ready to work right out of the box.
It’s not so hard to make claims on your website that you can’t back up. Anyone can say they do this kind of testing, and that kind of refurbishing. They can say a lot of things. But one thing no company can claim is an endorsement from a third party with credentials unless they’ve actually stood up to those standards. Look for a vendor with a quality management system that is certified by an accredited third party source like ISO. If they can boast that they’ve passed the stringent requirements necessary to gain certification from ISO, then you know you’re dealing with someone who at least is committed to providing quality equipment.
One of the knocks about purchasing used Cisco equipment is that you can’t get SMARTnet with it. That’s an understandable concern, but it is one that is remedied if the vendor is reputable enough to offer their own hardware replacement program and stand behind their products. If they do, it’s possible to receive quality hardware at a great price, along with a replacement program that in many cases can cost as much as 50% less than SMARTnet. And you still get the peace of mind of next business day advance replacement. That’s assurance at the right price!
So you’ve purchased your refurbished Cisco router or your Cisco switch or your Cisco phone from your chosen vendor. So now what? Do they remember you? Do they have any way to track that Cisco switch or router or phone that they sold you? Or are you on your own now? That’s not good enough. Look for a vendor that assigns a unique barcode to each individual product they sell. That way your equipment is trackable even post-sale. You’ll know for certain that they are accountable and that they’ll stand behind their product and the deal they’ve made with you as their customer.
It’s a smart decision to purchase used Cisco hardware when it makes sense for your network. But ask these ten questions and you’ll ensure you have the right vendor supplying you that refurbished Cisco equipment. You’ll have fewer issues and a better experience. With the right vendor comes the reliable, best value for your budget.