How to cut network expenses

Five IT execs share their strategies

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While he's had great luck with the quality of the technology he's purchased online, he admits that he uses gear bought on that venue to equip his secondary, tertiary and test networks. "We don't use eBay buys for parts of the network where if it goes down, the whole network goes down. We need the maintenance contracts for those and we're not willing to gamble on that," he says. For instance, he picks up secondary routers and servers on eBay, but not the primary ones. He also doesn't use eBay for security devices such as firewalls.

To avoid the horror stories of purchases gone bad, Bruns has developed standards for his team to follow when shopping on eBay -- such as making sure that vendors have a 97% or higher positive customer satisfaction rating and that they've carried out several hundred transactions. "Knowing how to work with eBay is very important so that you don't get stiffed," he says.

Bruns also buys second-hand technology from corporate peers who are on faster refresh cycles. "IT executives come to me when the lease on their technology, which is still relatively new, is up. It costs me pennies on the dollar and it saves them the time of having to get rid of it themselves," he says.

For instance, he recently bought (from a law firm) 50 desktops that would have retailed at $550 each -- for $89 each. "I put them in the university's computer labs and will get at least another two to three years out of them," he says.

He advises IT executives to tap into their peer networks at local trade associations and conferences to find out about similar deals. "Some people might shy away from saying they buy second-hand equipment, but I have no problem with it. Any time I don't have to go to the university cabinet and ask for money that is otherwise earmarked for students, that's a good thing," he says.

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