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Can refurbished network equipment fill the global chip shortage gap?

While some experts predict relief may be around the corner, the global chip shortage is still plaguing network administrators. Thankfully, refurbished network equipment can be purchased at discount rates without sacrificing the quality needed to maintain efficient work and tight security. Buying gear from an experienced refurbished or used reseller can be a component of an overall strategy that allows you to keep your network current despite current market challenges. 

How did the chip shortage happen?

It’s easy to place all the blame for semiconductor supply issues on the pandemic-related work restrictions, but the problem is not quite so simple. Several simultaneous stresses, including skyrocketing demand for electronics, weather-related plant closures, and product hoarding, have merged to create the ongoing situation.

When will the chip shortage end?

Unfortunately, even the most optimistic predictions don’t foresee the semiconductor market stabilizing any time soon or even this year. Continued geopolitical issues such as trade tensions between China and the US and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (a major supplier of the raw materials needed to build chips) continue to throw wrenches into the works of an industry that experts don’t see regaining its balance in the short term. Even though the US government is making significant efforts to put the country in a more self-sustaining position regarding semiconductor manufacturing, the high-tech facilities being built in Texas, Ohio, Arizona, and New Mexico aren’t expected to open until 2024 at the earliest.

The chip shortage’s effects on cybersecurity

While physical products may be sluggish to get into the hands of consumers, technological advancement has not slowed.

Cybersecurity incidents and concerns rose at unprecedented rates during the pandemic as personnel thinned, networks became flooded with work-from-home devices, and criminals seized opportunities to take advantage of the ensuing chaos and fear.

Most people can afford to wait when purchasing game consoles, musical instruments, and even automobiles. However, the hardware that keeps networks moving and cybercriminals at bay is not a luxury. Those waiting to update older or no longer supported routers, firewalls, and other devices could not do so as hardware supplies dwindled, and restock was few and far between. With criminals continually scanning for weak spots more than ever before, network and IT teams cannot afford to continue using equipment not up to the task of providing modern security.

How refurbished network equipment can fill the gap

The used equipment market has remained largely unaffected by the chip shortage. Network administrators who aren’t dedicated to grabbing only the latest and greatest gear will find the market flooded with pristine equipment left over from those who are. While enterprise organizations needing company-wide overhauls may experience challenges when finding exactly what they’re looking for at scale, small business owners will find no difficulty getting most of the parts they need from an experienced reseller

Why buy refurbished network equipment?

  • Less expensive. Refurbished and used gear is deeply discounted compared to brand-new options. Working with a quality secondary market reseller can avoid many headaches related to inflation-based price hikes. 
  • Real-world tested. An added cost-saving benefit is that older gear has been circulating long enough for administrators to understand its quirks, shortcomings, and best use cases. Manufacturers will have issued patches and updates to address any issues that may be present, making last year’s gear sometimes safer than today’s.
  • Warranty. Reputable resellers provide buyers with a warranty on their purchases. Some offer limited guarantees about defects and functionality; others may even allow you to extend your contract under special circumstances.
  • Communication. Manufacturers offer customer service, but major companies are generally not renowned for personable correspondence. Quality resellers are often staffed by people with network administrator experience who understand the demands of their customers and are empathetic to their needs. A bonus to corresponding with a reseller is that they can recommend products from any maker. Even the most generous company support representative is inclined only to recommend products built by their employer.  
  • You can extend the life of your tech. Upgrading incrementally instead of skipping generations and jumping to the newest equipment allows for a more gradual network transition. Installing a new component in one area often requires installing one elsewhere to maintain compliance and seamless integration. You can minimize this by purchasing refurbished gear that doesn’t require as much modernization.
  • It’s better for the environment. Using refurbished gear is that it keeps it out of the landfill longer and results in less packaging to throw away.

Additional ways to cope with the chip shortage

  • Optimize what you have. Many network devices are not implemented to capacity. Consolidating port usage and re-cabling can free up space, allow you to operate more efficiently, and let you put off new purchases until necessary.
  • Use the cloud. While far from novel in 2023, moving to the cloud remains a viable way to limit your equipment requirements. However, the cloud is not for everyone, and careful considerations must be made to ensure that the costs and changes required for the transition won’t negatively affect your operations.
  • Build based on what you can get. Design your network based on what’s available instead of your preference. Creative problem-solving can help you navigate supply issues and prepare you for future scenarios in which you must adapt.
  • Plan ahead. With restocks taking weeks or even months to appear, assuming you can order what you need when you need it is no longer a viable strategy. Take a hard look at your equipment and determine what components will reach the end of their usable life first. You can place orders for gear near retirement so that you can swap it out as needed without downtime.
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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Can refurbished network equipment fill the global chip shortage gap?