Small business owners and IT leaders have an array of tasks, including managing inventories and avoiding cyberattacks. By outsourcing device procurement and lifecycle management to their vendor partners and IT solutions providers — a trend known as Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) —small businesses (and even larger firms) may experience some relief and save money in the process.
The idea of DaaS is relatively new, but in recent months, large IT firms like HP Inc. and Microsoft have embraced the trend. For businesses, there seems to be a great deal of upside to DaaS, allowing companies to scale up or scale down device deployments as the needs of their employees change. Using the DaaS model also means that organizations can refresh devices more quickly, upgrade to new technologies more easily, and won’t be saddled with the responsibility for managing and maintaining devices in the first place.
Device-as-a-Service should not be confused with Desktop-as-a-Service, even though the acronyms are alike. “Despite the matching acronyms, the two are notably different,” Tom Mainelli, an analyst at research firm IDC who manages the company’s Devices and Displays group, wrote in a recent opinion column on technology news site Recode.
“Desktop-as-a-Service serves up a data-center-based, highly-secured virtualized desktop, accessible on a wide range of devices, including thin clients, desktops, notebooks, tablets and phones. Device-as-a-Service, conversely, serves up the hardware itself. Plans vary, but typically they include deployment, management, services and eventual end-of-life recycling of the device. Companies choose a length of service, typically around three years, and pay a monthly fee for each device.”
According to Mainelli, companies are receptive to the idea of buying PCs-as-a-Service; an IDC survey earlier this year found that about one-quarter of respondents were already actively looking at such services, and that nearly 20 percent of those surveyed said they had plans to do so in the next 12 months.
For companies contemplating DaaS, there are many benefits, including the ability to deploy only the devices that are needed and to shift device purchases from a capital expenditure to an operating expense, according to Mainelli.
“The ability to deploy only assets as needed based on workload is a big one,” Mainelli wrote. “This means a company has the ability to flex up, adding devices as needed when its workforce grows. More importantly, however, is the ability to flex down.”
Mainelli added that traditionally, when companies purchased PCs and then cut employees due to seasonal changes or layoffs, the result was an abundance of unneeded PCs. “In a DaaS model, the provider takes back those devices, potentially redeploying them with another client,” he wrote.
By shifting device purchases from capital expenditures to operational expenditures, companies get greater stability and visibility on their IT costs, Mainelli noted. “Instead of trying to forecast the need for future hardware refreshes, those refreshes are built into the service plan,” he wrote.
Most importantly, the DaaS model means that small businesses are not spending valuable time, money and the resources of IT managers on handling day-to-day management of PCs, tablets and other devices.
By outsourcing such management “to a third-party organization that is incentivized to keep everything running smoothly, employees are likely to have a better overall experience,” Mainelli wrote. “Plus, overtaxed IT organizations can focus on other business-driving initiatives. If the service provider does its job well, it’s a win-win situation, with more attractive margins for the seller and a simple, single-contract experience for the customer.”
Technology companies are increasingly seeing DaaS as an attractive proposition. At the end of June HP Inc. launched a DaaS program, which it said is “designed to help take the stress out of acquiring, deploying and managing technology. With a single contract across both devices and services and no upfront investment, HP DaaS offers predictable annual costs and gives IT greater flexibility to allocate funding to other projects as needed.”
In July, Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, unveiled a DaaS program called “Surface as a Service” for the company’s Surface tablet.
Under the program, Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Providers partners (who are also authorized distributors of Surface devices) can offer those devices through a managed service offering to all of Microsoft’s resellers and customers, alongside managed cloud services, Office 365, Windows 10, and relevant independent software, Mehdi wrote in a company blog post.