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  1. #1
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    server depreciation

    Hi there, I am wondering if you guys can help me. I am looking to buy some servers for hosting purposes. After 12 months I'd like to sell this hardware and buy new hardware, the idea being the servers I use will never be that outdated.
    I was just wondering if anyone has any opinion or experience regarding what kind of %age of initial purchase price of a branded server one can expect to receive approx 12 months after purchasing the server. This is assuming the server is sold using mediums such as ebay or forums like this one. I am talking UK servers and currencies if this makes a difference.
    Reponses would really be appreciated, thank you!

  2. #2
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    Actually depreciation schedule isn't linear even though most companies choose to do a 3 year or 5 year depreciation schedule.

    Two things

    1. First year depreciation will be the highest so I expect higher than 33% depreciation if you are on a 3 year schedule.

    2. Whenever Intel releases new line of CPUs, pretty much the relative value of every CPU out there depreciates. In the case of Nehalem, which offered 2x performance per watt over the Xeon 5400s, the actual depreciation in used market is actually a pretty scary step function.

    If you are truly worried about depreciation, actually buy the servers used, because then the depreciation would be a lot slower in absolute dollar amount, which is the opposite of what you are trying to do. You are thinking that first year depreciation would be slower since it is new, but it doesn't really work out that way; unless you offload the servers before the annual Intel CPU refresh, and find someone willing to take a risk buying it off of you.
    Last edited by tshen83; 09-18-2009 at 10:04 PM.

  3. #3
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    Depreciation for tax purposes is generally going to be a lot different than the actual drop in value. I usually count on servers losing about 50% of their value per year.
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  4. #4
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    I try not to think about depreciation with technology...

    lol.

  5. #5
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    I am not looking to estimate depreciation for tax purposes. I want to upgrade my hardware every 12 months to ensure I have the latest equipment. I am simply trying to figure out how much I can get for the servers compared to the price I bought them for! I have put down 40%, I think this is reasonable?
    Not interested in depreciation for tax purposes in this thread!

  6. #6
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    Then I would say more than 50%
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  7. #7
    Normally server depreciation is calculated at 33% per year. A 3 old server is complete garbage. This depends allot on several factors. If you just bought a new Intel line, and Intel launches next month a new better chip, your depreciation would be 30% in just 1 month.

    Its just like cars, the minute you drive it out from the car dealer new, its 30% less worth. Thats why some people prefer to buy a model which is at least 1 year old, still new, but you pay 30% less.

    Technology is deprecated really fast, there aren't hard numbers.

    33% was calculated some years ago per year, I think its allot more this days.

    Thats also why a new car, a new chip, the latests this or that is 3 to 4 times more expensive then the previous model. You pay the benefit of First. You buy a 500$ chip, next month comes a new one, and 2 months later your chip is sold new for 200$ and the new one is costing the 500$

  8. #8
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    I would say it's more like 50% so that a piece of computer equipment is virtually worthless after 2 years (sadly). I think the 33% figure is something accountants use to make their numbers add up correctly.
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  9. #9
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    At least 50%, probably higher. The hardest part is finding a buyer. We went through a complete server replacement cycle in 2008, and had stacks of good brand-name factory-built servers (not whitebox) pulled from working production and sitting in the back room, that we were lucky to get $100 for.

    New servers are so cheap these days, your target market would most likely be the cash-strapped startups and bottom feeders. (Translation: The selling price has to be cheap. Really cheap.)

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  11. #11
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    Honestly, I don't consider a server to be "outdated" until it is no longer powerful enough to perform its required function. If a two-year-old server is still performing well, then it would be a waste of money, resources, and customer downtime to go through the process of spending money on new hardware, updating the software, and migrating the data just to say that the hardware is the "latest".

    Many people can do wonders with 2-3 year old servers.

  12. #12
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    I agree. But there comes a time when it's wise to proactively swap out old gear for new. Hard drives fail, memory sticks go bad, power supplies go poof.

    Each host must determine which is more costly; a few minutes of downtime to swap in new gear in a planned and orderly fashion, or address the problem when a server unexpectedly goes down. The nature of our business made the first choice more desirable, in spite of the cost of new gear. Every old server was pulled from working production and was plenty powerful enough to still do a great job. They just had 75,000 miles on the odometer and it was time to trade them in.

    We sold most of them to a host in the same colo that does "value" hosting on older gear, and I'm sure they're all still running great today.

  13. #13
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    One thing that I've always found largely impacts the price of used servers is that actual removing them from the racks and boxing. Between the trouble involved and the high shipping costs, it's not uncommon to find that boxes that were $2-3K just two years ago can only be resold for a few hundred.

  14. #14
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    Correct. Our experience is a resale of no more than 5-10% of the original value on a 3 year old server.

    And even then, it depends on the platform. We had 2 year old HP DL320 servers with 2.93 Celerons (never used, fresh out of the box) that we couldn't give away, yet we were able to sell all of our 3 year old P4/3.0 machines for $100 each.

    Even though the newer generation Celeron processor was every bit as fast as the older generation P4, nobody wanted a Celeron. It didn't matter that the Celeron boxes were like brand new, and the P4 machines had been running 24x7 for a 3 years.

  15. #15
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    There are different methods for amortization, the most common being straight-line, declining balance, and activity based.

    An example of straight-line amortization would be a 3 year estimated useful life, and amortizing the server at 33% per year.

    Declining balance is probably more appropriate, where you use an amortization rate (e.g. 50%) and reduce the value of the asset by that amount each year. For example, in the first year you amortize by 50%, so you have 50% remaining. In the 2nd year, you reduce by 50% of the remaining amount, so you have 25% of the original value remaining. In the 3rd year, you reduce by yet another 50%, with 12.5% of the original value remaining. This is probably the most apt method for use with computer hardware, and is what we use for tax purposes here in Canada (50% is also the capital cost allowance rate).

    Activity is where you estimate the number of time units of operation the asset has, and evenly divide the value by those units. However, this wouldn't really apply to servers, as they are on 24/7 anyway, and the amount of use doesn't really affect their value all that much in comparison to the age.
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  16. #16
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    Another thing to remember is if you take a 179 write-off, or another method whereby you fully depreciate the equipment, then recover some of those costs when you sell, you have to declare the proceeds from the sale as business income.

  17. #17
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    Additionally, as technology improves, hardware tends to become more energy efficient... which directly benefits one's overhead costs and may help offset the cost new equipment over a range of time.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bqinternet View Post
    Depreciation for tax purposes is generally going to be a lot different than the actual drop in value. I usually count on servers losing about 50% of their value per year.
    In general, I would agree with that estimate.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    I agree. But there comes a time when it's wise to proactively swap out old gear for new. Hard drives fail, memory sticks go bad, power supplies go poof.

    Each host must determine which is more costly; a few minutes of downtime to swap in new gear in a planned and orderly fashion, or address the problem when a server unexpectedly goes down. The nature of our business made the first choice more desirable, in spite of the cost of new gear. Every old server was pulled from working production and was plenty powerful enough to still do a great job. They just had 75,000 miles on the odometer and it was time to trade them in.

    We sold most of them to a host in the same colo that does "value" hosting on older gear, and I'm sure they're all still running great today.
    Or build an infrastructure where the failure of a single system has no noticeable affect.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by KarlZimmer View Post
    Or build an infrastructure where the failure of a single system has no noticeable affect.
    How many customers are willing to pay for doubling up on servers?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    How many customers are willing to pay for doubling up on servers?
    WHo is talking about doubling the number of servers?
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    How many customers are willing to pay for doubling up on servers?
    I might be wrong but I think what karl means is instead of buying low cost or cheap hw and replacing with "new" cheap and low cost hardware again every year, buy hardware which might be 1 1/2 or even 2 times the cost of the cheap hardware and run it for 3 years at least.

    So if out of them if 1 or 2 odd ball servers die, just replace them, no need to replace the ENTIRE infrastructure of working servers just cause 1 or 2 are going bad.

    Although I might be completely off lets see if karl can explain .
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  23. #23
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    I was guessing he meant clouds or clusters or some other means of distributing the same workload over multiple servers, either active-active or active-passive/failover.

    For the types of services on which we focus, that would require most of our customers to double their purchases. If we have a Quad-CPU box with 32 GB RAM and 4x300 GB 15k rpm SAS disks dedicated to running an [accounting|crm|inventory|take-your-pick] app that is not cluster-aware, about the only option we have for failover is hot-mirroring a second box, charging them for the 2nd server, replication software, OS licensing, etc., and the management thereof.

  24. #24
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    3 years is the best way to go. You say you want to replace every year, but Intel don't release new chip families every year, so buy what you can now and it probably will still be near the top a year later.

    i.e. the Intel 5400 family was released in 2007 but the 5500's were only released in the middle of this year.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeon

    We still run dual quad core Xeon 53xx based machines very happily. I've virtualised most of our boxes, so if I need to give more CPU to a VM I just move it to another box

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by C|Smith View Post
    Additionally, as technology improves, hardware tends to become more energy efficient... which directly benefits one's overhead costs and may help offset the cost new equipment over a range of time.
    Absolutely. Running old hardware can actually cost you more money than buying new

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpwjpw View Post
    Absolutely. Running old hardware can actually cost you more money than buying new
    Especially true in the case of the dual core Pentium-D units. A heavily loaded box could easily draw more than 1 amp of power for just the CPU alone, and generated a lot of heat. Newer CPUs draw half the amps (or less) and you need far fewer of them to produce the same amount of work.

    Cutting half an amp from your power on a single server is no big deal. But cutting 0.5 amps per server from just 100 servers translates to thousands of dollars per year in savings. Datacenter-wide, that adds up to serious money.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by PYDOT View Post
    A 3 old server is complete garbage.
    Interesting you say that - we have a few 3 year old Dell 2950s with dual dual cores and SCSI disks, redundant power supplies in our racks that probably put the kind of hardware a lot of hosts on WHT use to shame. Very solid machines! We have been slowly replacing them with faster, more efficient R710s, but the 2950s aren't garbage. :p
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  28. #28
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    Some questions to ask are:

    a) Is what I have, able to carry the loads put in it?
    b) Is what I have, reliable (or reliable enough for my needs)?
    c) Is what I have, more costly to operate than a newer model?

    Assuming speed/capacity is adequate for either option, which would be the better choice for hosting an important website?

    a) A 5 node load balanced cluster of 3-5 year old servers, or
    b) A brand new top-of-the-line server with redundant disks, redundant power supplies, etc.

    The answer: It depends. How often do the old servers fail?

    No single answer applies to everyone, all the time. Sometimes using older equipment DOES make sense.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpat View Post
    I was just wondering if anyone has any opinion or experience regarding what kind of %age of initial purchase price of a branded server one can expect to receive approx 12 months after purchasing the server.
    About 25%.

    This is based on several factors:

    1) The server will be less powerful than a new server available at the same price in twelve months, so that reflects its new value. (That is, even if the server remained boxed and unused, it will be worth less in one year than it is today.)
    2) The warranty will have expired or have less time to run
    3) The server will be used, not new. You would pay less for a used server in 12 months time than an identical server that had remained boxed and unused for a year.
    4) The resale vale of the server to the next purchaser is lower than it is to the original purchaser.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    I was guessing he meant clouds or clusters or some other means of distributing the same workload over multiple servers, either active-active or active-passive/failover.

    For the types of services on which we focus, that would require most of our customers to double their purchases. If we have a Quad-CPU box with 32 GB RAM and 4x300 GB 15k rpm SAS disks dedicated to running an [accounting|crm|inventory|take-your-pick] app that is not cluster-aware, about the only option we have for failover is hot-mirroring a second box, charging them for the 2nd server, replication software, OS licensing, etc., and the management thereof.
    Why do you need a active/passive configuration or 2N redundancy for a cluster/cloud? Why not an N+1 type configuration? Why use a single higher end box, as you proposed here instead of say 3 lower end boxes that could handle the same load, but spread it out to achieve higher reliability? In addition, Honelive did mention how you can do a redundant configuration such as that, without spending any more money.

    I was primarily commenting on the idea that downtime was necessary, it's not, that is simply how you chose to operate. I am not saying that is not the best way for you to operate, simply that it is in no way a universal idea/issue.
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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by KarlZimmer View Post
    Why use a single higher end box, as you proposed here instead of say 3 lower end boxes that could handle the same load, but spread it out to achieve higher reliability?
    I think we mutually agree it depends on the nature of the load. We have a partnership with a particular software vendor whose product is used via Remote Desktop. It uses a proprietary data source that must be accessed from the localhost for a variety of reasons, so using frontends on multiple servers (tied to a common datasource) isn't an option. In this case we don't have much choice but to run each client on their own server. Redundancy in this case would require hot-mirroring the server, at basically double the cost.

    It's a different story for webhosting. Email, somewhat different. The mail server platform we use, while very reliable, is not yet cluster-aware although the vendor keeps promising to consider that in future versions.

    Quote Originally Posted by KarlZimmer View Post
    I am not saying that is not the best way for you to operate, simply that it is in no way a universal idea/issue.
    I think we all agree on this as well. No one approach is best for everyone, just as no one car is best.

  32. #32
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    Hi there, I am wondering if you guys can help me. I am looking to buy some servers for hosting purposes. After 12 months I'd like to sell this hardware and buy new hardware, the idea being the servers I use will never be that outdated.
    No offense, but it sounds like a weird idea to me. You should not really worry about hardware being outdated but worry about your web site performance. Why would you change the server if you web site is still running fine on it? Also changing the servers means multiple possible problems and need for data migration. You should try using the server as long as you can instead of replacing it. Remember, if it ain't broke, don't fix it !

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  33. #33
    In my experience, servers more than a few years old work best as paper weights or reused for your grandmother that only uses the computer to play scrabble.

    Seriously though, constantly updating hardware is definitely essential to maintaining customers and building a successful business.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by dazmanultra View Post
    Interesting you say that - we have a few 3 year old Dell 2950s with dual dual cores and SCSI disks, redundant power supplies in our racks that probably put the kind of hardware a lot of hosts on WHT use to shame. Very solid machines! We have been slowly replacing them with faster, more efficient R710s, but the 2950s aren't garbage. :p
    You are right, its not always the case. The Planet was until last year and I think still is selling Celerons for 69$ a month. And believe me, they sell them as cakes!!!

    Allot of newbies hosts, buy a celeron, install cPanel and get his website running on it. In that case, your 3 year old servers which at the time where the best of the line will still run better and faster.

    I don't think its always the case that 3 year old servers are nothing worth on real world, but in terms of accountings, its 0$ worth.
    You can use it as DNS server, backup, testing, etc. Allot of providers still rent boxes with have allot more then 3 years. That means they can and still are worth something, but not really as direct money, in some cases its better to replace them with better hardware that uses less power.

    It all depends, P4 had a very long time before they where phased out now by Atoms, if your line was Celerons then you had back luck.
    It depends on what kind of harware you have and what you do with it. I can say something for sure, I don't change my office computers or laptops every year. They still run fine after 2 years, and I change them between 3 to 5 years. I still have some XP Athlons, the first 64 bits chips for some monitoring and they work rock solid at office 24 hours for years.

    In the DC, the story is just what clients are pushed by marketing, so you are forced to always offer the best of the line and the most new hardware. Even when you can run things in older hardware. About selling, nobody wants old gear, its probably better to offer them cheap as a bundle for something.
    We all must not forget Google based their success on low profile boxes, commodity hardware.

    But this topic was more about depreciation. 50% a year is not realistic. If you bought medium servers probably, if you went with the best Intel chips, raid card, ecc reigstered ram, enterprise disks, etc, everything of the top line, 50% a year doesn't apply, as this kind of hardware is still pretty good priced after 1 year. If that was the case, everybody would be offering today servers only with SDD disks because their raptor drives are not worth anymore a single 1$. Of course that is not the case, and top providers still offer 1, 2 and even 3 years old Xeons on their lines.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Sekweta View Post
    How many customers are willing to pay for doubling up on servers?
    There are many who require that level of service and up-time provided by redundancy.
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  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by dazmanultra View Post
    Interesting you say that - we have a few 3 year old Dell 2950s with dual dual cores and SCSI disks, redundant power supplies in our racks that probably put the kind of hardware a lot of hosts on WHT use to shame. Very solid machines! We have been slowly replacing them with faster, more efficient R710s, but the 2950s aren't garbage. :p
    I agree.. When you pay $2k-$50k for a server, it's going to last for more than 3 years. Just because you can depreciate the value of the hardware does not mean it is being removed from production after 3 years. Think of routers, switches, SAN's, etc.... Can you imagine how insane it would to replace a $2M san just because it's 3 years old!!! It's not only crazy but plain insane to replace your infrastructure every 3 years... Insanity is not profitable.

    I am not saying to keep all of these things for 10+ years but there are going to be devices that stay in service for even longer, just don't assume a device is obsolete and no longer serviceable after 3 years.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by dexxtreme View Post
    Honestly, I don't consider a server to be "outdated" until it is no longer powerful enough to perform its required function. If a two-year-old server is still performing well, then it would be a waste of money, resources, and customer downtime to go through the process of spending money on new hardware, updating the software, and migrating the data just to say that the hardware is the "latest".

    Many people can do wonders with 2-3 year old servers.
    I completely agree with this, Why upgrade to a newer server when theres no need for that extra processing power? instead upgrade the hard drives or RAM!

  38. #38
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    Back to the original question, as you want to know depreciation for real purposes rather than just tax, I would seriously assume the value of my old server is the cost of having it dumped, then consider anything you get as a bonus. Trying to predict the value of a server in 12 months without knowing anything about it and not really knowing the state of the economy is impossible at best. I remember a friend decided to quit hosting and got his dell server returned from colo to ebay it, it cost him just over £2000, had dual xeon chips (i forget the model), hardware raid, 18 months warranty left, the whole 9 yards, at 18 months old he put it on ebay for £500 and didn't get a single bid. In the end he shoved it on as a 99p start for 10 days, it finally raised just over £400. You just can't guess the value of these things, far too many factors involved.

  39. #39
    Well I think that servers should be depreciated in a Period of 2 years. Every 18 months the computer becomes twice as fast and half the size and also half the price. So a depreciation of 60% in the first year and 40% in the next year is appropriate.
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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpat View Post
    Hi there, I am wondering if you guys can help me. I am looking to buy some servers for hosting purposes. After 12 months I'd like to sell this hardware and buy new hardware, the idea being the servers I use will never be that outdated.
    I was just wondering if anyone has any opinion or experience regarding what kind of %age of initial purchase price of a branded server one can expect to receive approx 12 months after purchasing the server. This is assuming the server is sold using mediums such as ebay or forums like this one. I am talking UK servers and currencies if this makes a difference.
    Reponses would really be appreciated, thank you!
    I'm not sure I understand the rationale here. You want to have new hardware every year, just for the sake of not being outdated? That's not something that makes a lot of business sense.

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