May 21 2013

Despite Initial Costs, Rugged Mobile Devices Deliver ROI

Justifying the investment in rugged hardware saves small businesses in the long run.

There is no doubt about it: Ruggedized mobile devices are more expensive than consumer-grade equipment.

Many IT chiefs, however, know the extra cost is worth it. Because rugged devices can withstand more battering, they tend to last longer, which lessens the total cost of ownership, says David Krebs, vice president of mobile and wireless at VDC Research.

VDC has found that the replacement cycle for rugged devices is four to six years, versus 36 months for nonrugged gear. That’s partly because failure rates are lower and partly because applications that organizations use on rugged devices tend to change less frequently.

That’s certainly been true at the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, says David Timmermann, network administrator at SMECO.

“With the amount of abuse our Toughbooks have taken, a standard laptop would have been replaced three to five times per year,” Timmermann says. “This way we can configure them, give them to crews and just get them back once a year for updates or patching.”

Return on investment also tends to be better with rugged devices.

“We found that the post-deployment costs for devices with higher failure rates can significantly outweigh the upfront cost savings of adopting nonrugged units,” Krebs says. “We have seen ROIs anywhere from eight to 18 months for rugged mobile devices.”

The challenge, says Power Line Services IT Director William Rhodes, comes in justifying the investment initially to management.

“We measure what we can, such as improved efficiency in generating invoices, how fast we receive payment, and a decrease in collections — all valid measures,” Rhodes says.

For more on businesses using ruggedized devices, read our story "Need to Get Tough? Why SMBs Buy Ruggedized Devices."

Digital Vision/Thinkstock

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