Need to colocate servers in the US without Customary interference.
September 9, 2009 10:50 AM   Subscribe

We've just acquired a second colocation facility for redundancy and for geopolitical separation of our services (in other words, Canadian customers on Canadian boxes, US customers on US boxes for many pain in the ass reasons I won't get into here.). Our office is in Canada and the second colo facility is in Seattle. What sort of fresh hell will we unleash by taking servers purchased here across the border?

We actually haven't bought the servers yet, and the two options are buy them here (Canada), install and test them here, and then bring them down to Seattle and rack them up, or buy them from somewhere in the US, have them transshipped and go meet them at the co-lo in Seattle. The first has the potential to cause problems at the border, the second has the potential to just cause problems period as the install and vetting will be problematic away from head office. So I'd prefer to do the install and test in Canada first.

I've looked around a bit but haven't found any real pointers as to what paperwork I'll need to fill in or how to categorize this. I've seen a few things about importing equipment to work in the US (like at an office) and the same for taking stuff across for personal use, but is this not different since we're literally dropping these things off at a cage in Seattle and any "work" will be done from Canada on them? Any suggestions where to find the paperwork that will turn any frowns upside down at the border?
posted by barc0001 to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Okay, so I work with Customs, and I think I might be able to help answer your question, but first, I have some questions of my own, and I don't want to fill up your AskMe, so I'm going to MeMail you.
posted by alynnk at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2009

Usually warranties are not serviced even when something is purchased in Canada and used in US. But if you can ship any device to your american site you can likely just send it for warranty there.

WOn't it be cheaper to purchase them in America? Like, a lot cheaper?
posted by Napierzaza at 11:42 AM on September 9, 2009

I've been asked to post my message to the OP for the benefit of the community:
Should you decide to go with Canadian machines: first of all, good news! I work in a Customs brokerage office [I classify imports and send the information to Customs for clearance] and as far as I can tell, your servers should be able to come into the country duty-free.

Where it might get tricky: does your company have an actual physical location with employees in the States, or will the servers just be living in a building of their own where you'll work on them and then leave them? [Forgive me, I'm not sure how this works, exactly.] Also, would you be shipping them by themselves, or would someone from your company accompany them across the border?

Either way, computers fall under the realm of the FCC, and you'll most likely need to fill out form 740 [] and have it ready when making entry into the US.
posted by alynnk at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2009

Napierzaza: Warranty work shouldn't be an issue, we're only a couple of hours by car from Seattle and buying backups with the idea that if something does break we're taking it back to the office anyway. As for the cost, I had thought it would be cheaper to buy in the US, but the quotes I'm getting shows it's not all that much of a difference.

No duty is definitely good news.

We do have a physical location in the US, but it's not in the same state as where we're putting the boxes, and calling it a "location" might be stretching it a bit. It's more like a guy who does sales calls out of his den. All our dev/production work is done in Canada. The idea is exactly as you say, we build them, set up the software and then dump them off by themselves in a lonely cage in a building in Seattle, never to visit unless one of them dies.

Thanks for the FCC form, that's a good start, but are there any other ones regarding bringing computer equipment in general that we plan to leave in the US (but not at an office or branch of the company).
posted by barc0001 at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2009

Alright, well, I just got off the phone with one of the electronics import specialists in Seattle, and he doesn't feel that you're going to need much other than a standard consumption entry, the FCC form, and a importer's bond. I asked him specifically about the fact that the servers will be left to do their thing, and he didn't have a problem with it at all. CBP has no such regulations or restrictions to the best of our combined knowledge.

Your sales guy can act as importer of record here in the states and the entry can be filed using his social security number, or your company can file for their own importer number. [It doesn't really matter that your guy operates in a separate state from where the servers will be living; companies deliver their goods to locations other than their main facility all the time. You just need someone stateside who can act as importer.]

To be honest, the guy at Customs seemed more concerned with the business codes for wherever you're setting up your cage; everything is going to be fairly straightforward on the CBP side of things. Your next step is probably to contact a Customs broker in Seattle: here's a whole list of them, with the note that Total Logistics Resource comes recommended by a company that I work with that does business in the area. A broker will make the entire process a heck of a lot easier, and they'll be able to take care of your bond and everything else.
posted by alynnk at 1:28 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

alynnk, thanks very much for the information. I will definitely be contacting one of the customs brokers you listed, probably TLR to start.
posted by barc0001 at 1:55 PM on September 9, 2009

Glad to help! Actually, if you wouldn't mind, would you let me know how it all works out? The theory is one thing, the practice is another, and I'm still learning the business...
posted by alynnk at 3:21 PM on September 9, 2009

Definitely will do so. I'll drop you a note in the next month and a bit since that's our timeframe for being done, and also post it to the thread for the elucidation of others.
posted by barc0001 at 10:10 PM on September 10, 2009

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