In the last few years, enterprise IT departments have faced a unique set of challenges: On the one hand, they have morphed from a supporting entity to a business enabler, and are maintaining increasingly complex IT landscapes whilst battling significantly larger cyber security threats than ever before. On the other hand, they have to manage more change with fewer resources and stagnant or minimally-increasing budgets.
As a result, many CTOs, CIOs, and COOs are looking for ways to cut costs, increase efficiencies, and boost productivity. They are revisiting methodologies which previously delivered sub-optimal results because now, with newer technology, these difficult to achieve programs have developed into viable options — such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Software Asset Management, and Evergreen IT. Sitting squarely into this category is the question of how we can better manage and maintain our physical end user assets and the supporting tools and services required to successfully achieve an as-a-service model.
Driving this change are improvements to our management systems such as System Center Configuration Manager. These systems do a much better job now of handling complex environments than they did a few years ago. Previously, if we wanted to move our end user desktops and laptops to an OpEx, rather than a CapEx financial model, we needed to consider leasing our equipment. But while PC leasing has been around for a long time, and has seen a "period of decline related to decreasing business sentiment and rising interest rates" according to IBIS, HP's new offering, Device-as-a-Service, looks like a promising solution to offset the deficits of the traditional approach.
PC Leasing vs. Device-as-a-Service
Keeping your hardware estate well-maintained, within warranty, and securely updated can take a huge toll on your IT team. Now add into the mix that most of the hardware refresh projects are driven by the business units whenever they have the budget to undertake such a project, rather than strategically planned by IT, and you end up with another layer of complexity, waste, and inefficiency. Therefore, many organizations opt to outsource their hardware management using two major models of hardware outsourcing: PC Leasing and now, Device-as-a-Service.
PC Leasing lets your business lease hardware for a pre-defined term (usually 24, 30, 36, or 48 months), then return the machines at the end of their lease. Much like with a car, leased hardware can thus be used when it's new, and the burden of obsolescence is transferred to your leasing company. With PC leasing, you are responsible for the maintenance and operation of the hardware that is in your possession.
Device-as-a-Service (or DaaS) also allows you, for a set monthly fee, to lease the hardware you need. This hardware is maintained, updated, and replaced as necessary rather than en masse for the term of your agreement. But device as a service goes much further. Rather than you raising a call for a flagging laptop battery, the provider will pro-actively monitor the security and performance of the hardware, and send the new battery before the old one fails completely. Likewise, think about how much time your team spends managing and updating device drivers in your gold image(s). Device-as-a-service would assume this responsibility, ensuring that the vendor fully supports your specific configuration, and availability for you to support new machines on release to manufacturing rather than accepting months of certification time lost in testing internally when you have available resource. It also covers other aspects like build at factory, build on-site and can even cover maintenance on your core applications. With Windows 10 on the horizon, your corporate PC image is going to be under constant change, and having someone manage that for you will be of great interest to many IT departments who would otherwise struggle to keep up.
So, which is the better approach for your business? Let's have a closer look:
PC Leasing: The Drawbacks
PC Leasing almost sounds too good to be true; hardware for your company to use without incurring any risky investment in technology that might fail. But the truth is, there are many drawbacks to the PC Leasing system.
If your organization has ever leased PCs, you will know about the problem of missing or lost machines at the end of a leasing term. Hardware can, and does, frequently go missing; meaning that your company is responsible for replacing it at the end of its lease term. The financial burden of replacement can be much greater than the financial burden of purchasing this hardware outright, and leaves your company with nothing to show for the expense.
Additionally, since the technology is renewed and replaced at the end of a fixed term, the leasing system generates a great deal of waste. Hardware doesn't have a set lifecycle but replacing it happens based on the lease timeframe at pre-set periodic intervals — which often can be more of a pain than anything else. The process of backing up, restoring, re-imaging, and keeping your data secure costs valuable time and effort, and can be extremely disruptive to the flow in your workplace.
Furthermore, leasing technology leaves the burden of maintenance on your IT team. It creates an added degree of difficulty since warranty information may or may not be held by the leasing company, meaning that each interim hardware issue can become a nightmare to solve. While your IT team must keep the hardware running, leasing often leaves them at a disadvantage in their efforts to do so.
As your technology needs shift and change over the years, the terms of your lease do not. While you may require a certain set of hardware one year, shifts in policy or human resources might make certain subsets of hardware unnecessary. Despite this, a fixed-term lease means you will be paying for the hardware whether it remains useful to you or has become no longer needed.
Can Device-as-a-Service offer an alternative to PC Leasing?
Device-as-a-Service, on the other hand, allows you the benefits of leasing hardware, and addresses those major drawbacks. Contracts are per seat or per device, and since the offering is demand driven, it is a very transparent model.
In a DaaS model, hardware is refreshed as necessary, resulting in less waste, as well as less workplace disruption. IT organizations can work more in a "Business as Usual" mode since hardware refreshes are executed as minimally invasive procedures, replacing what doesn't work exactly when it needs replacing. DaaS allows your business to thrive under an Evergreen IT model, dispensing with the disruption of big bang rollouts and instead allowing rolling, ongoing migrations.
DaaS also contributes significantly to the security of your IT environment. Since hardware is replaced on an individual basis, detailed and thorough security checks can be made to new hardware before it enters your environment. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle because DaaS prevents the shuffle in the first place. DaaS also allows you to select the devices you need when you need them; no more paying for machines that no longer support your business model.
But one of the best reasons why Device-as-a-Service is an asset rather than a cost to any organizational bottom line is the proactive analytics. As Bill Avey, the General Manager & Global Head of Personal System Services. said in an interview with ZDNet:
"The real magic is the management and analytics portion that comes in with the 'as a service' model, When we talk to IT decision makers... we find they don't know what devices they have, they don't know where those devices are... how they're performing and whether they're meeting the end user's needs."
For example, HP can manage the battery life and other key issues within the managed hardware estate and proactively ship batteries before they break — resulting in less hassle and downtime on the end-user side as well as less maintenance work for IT.
When it does come time for a device to be disposed of, DaaS provides the same amount of detail-oriented security checks that it did at the device's deployment to keep your environment and data secure. Dealing with these devices on an individual basis means that small details, often missed in mass rollouts, are checked and noticed. Individualized attention to what isn't working targets those problems specifically, while leaving your working system intact and thriving.
But the real value is the breadth and depth of the services that surround the hardware provision. Too often, hardware vendors have focussed purely on price and margin. Since hardware costs have fallen and devices commoditized, much of the real lifecycle expense in hardware management is in the ongoing maintenance of the supporting infrastructure. New models are always in demand, and this drives a huge amount of internal certification work. Likewise, we are not restricted to PCs and laptops any more, devices include thin clients, tablets, Apple devices and others which are as suitable for device-as-a-service as the traditional hardware.
By abstracting the organisational specifics to a much reduced set of security and policy settings, and a more manageable mix of core applications, device-as-a-service has become an implementable vision. Windows 10 is going to drive a huge amount of change within your environment - and your hardware will need to keep up. Having the vendor take responsibility for managing this constant change and driving innovative new pro-active servicing means a significant shift towards a fully productive, always-on workforce that can take advantage of the latest technology as soon as it is available, whilst maintaining and refreshing the aging estate within a sustainable lifecycle.
On the surface, these two models might seem similar enough, but there are fundamental differences in their strengths and weaknesses. DaaS keeps your business running the way you want it to, and allows hardware to be repaired and replaced during its natural lifecycle rather than according to some arbitrary calendar date. Ultimately, DaaS allows you to eliminate wasteful hardware refresh practices while outsourcing much of the ongoing management and maintenance. This, whilst delivering a transparent operational expense model can help drive financials that work, but without the huge risk burden.