“Procurement and deployment of the PC and other devices is about to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century as a growing number of companies explore the potential benefits of PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) and Device-as-a-Service (DaaS)," says Tom Mainelli, program vice president of devices and displays at IDC.
According to a IDC survey from earlier this year, almost 25 per cent of IT decision-makers are already actively considering PCaaS, and a further 20 per cent say they plan to do so within 12 months. And it’s not difficult to see why.
At one extreme, running a fleet of PCs in a corporate environment requires considerable capital outlay for their purchase and for the provision of the IT resources needed to maintain them. At the other extreme, these functions can be outsourced through leasing and support contracts, but that typically requires three separate relationships: hardware supplier, finance company and support provider.
Most organisations will have a PC procurement and support regime that sits somewhere between these two extremes, but in any variant there are many hidden costs. IT consulting firm Nash Networks estimates that the purchase of hardware and software typically accounts for less than 50 per cent of the total direct costs.
Nash Networks lists a whole set of indirect costs that it says can account for as much as 50 per cent of the total cost of ownership, and are often completely hidden. These costs generally arise through suboptimal maintenance and/or inadequate user support. They include lost or reduced productivity because of downtime and time spent by staff providing informal IT support to colleagues.
The DIY system
A good indication of what's involved in supporting a fleet of PCs under a do-it-yourself (DIY) model is MTC Training's course, Managing Enterprise Devices and Apps Using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). SCCM is a product from Microsoft designed to facilitate the management of Windows PCs. The course is intended for experienced IT professionals who are typically enterprise desktop administrators. These are people who deploy, manage and maintain PCs, devices and applications.
Here's a list of topics covered – that is, what someone in such a role is expected to undertake:
- Managing desktops and devices in the enterprise.
- Preparing the infrastructure to support desktop and device.
- Deploying and managing the configuration manager client.
- Managing inventory for PCs and applications.
- Distributing and managing content used for deployments.
- Deploying and managing applications.
- Maintaining software updates for managed PCs.
- Implementing endpoint protection for managed PCs.
- Managing compliance and secure data access.
- Managing client status, power management and remote administration.
- Maintaining configuration manager sites and site systems.
If not leaving it up to a provider, a business would have to single-handedly conquer all of this. It could represent a costly undertaking, and might also be well beyond the capabilities and resources of an organisation.
The PCaaS alternative
PCaaS replaces these with a single contract and a per-device monthly fee. PCaaS contracts are based on a fixed hardware refresh cycle, generally three years, with hardware and software support that includes ensuring software is kept up to date and, in particular, that the patches needed to keep systems secure are applied expeditiously.
There’s also a strong argument for PCaaS purely on the grounds of optimal deployment of capital. Every business needs access to capital to fund its growth, and while PCs are vital to the operation of most businesses, the operation of the PCs is not core business. Capital can be more usefully applied to business growth if PC provision is made an operating expense.
This is particularly true for startups and small businesses. The advent of Software-as-a-Service has reduced business small business costs enormously in recent years. Provided under an 'as-as-service' model, the PCs needed to access that software remove yet another barrier to entrepreneurship.
PCaaS allows businesses to not only outfit their offices without having to buy everything outright, but also streamlines their IT support costs as part of the service. It's important to be aware of these costs, as you don't want to be left unexpectedly out of pocket when you budget in your PCs.