Covid-19 triggered a run on devices; factory shutdowns in China, coupled with disruption to supply chains, led to warnings from Apple that it was running out of iPhones. Google, meanwhile, cited a hardware shortage in internal documents, and tech retailers have even alerted the public to potential shortages as far into the future as Christmas.
Businesses can add these issues to a litany of pre-existing hardware challenges, like IT security and patching, and the time and cost required to procure new hardware and get it set up for employees.
With many businesses with employees continuing to work from home, Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) might just offer an easy solution; for a monthly fee, your devices and the software that runs on them are supplied, ready to go from the moment they’re unboxed.
The term DaaS can cover any device – tablets, computers, specialised industrial machines or simply deskphones. It reduces a business’s initial spend on hardware, replacing it with a subscription model. Supplies can be scaled up or down as required, and managed services are optional. Demand for DaaS is rapidly growing, with the pandemic – and the resulting rush to work from home – helping speed it along.
“Device-as-a-service was something that businesses didn’t really consider in the past,” said Joe Roche, head of marketing at Blueface. “Now even the most traditional businesses are switching over to a subscription model. It makes a lot more sense, if you need to acquire devices but don't necessarily have a lot to invest.”
The so-called lean method, an approach which optimises and minimises resources, effort, costs and energy spent, was once the preserve of start-ups, but it has dispersed into everyday business practises over the last decade.
Device-as-a-Service is part of this shift, offering a way to quickly equip your employees with up-to-date tech without committing to long-term investments.
“Growth is the most important thing when it comes to technology,” said Roche. “That willingness to invest in growth, and product, and customer service as opposed to stability, is a reflection of the technology sector in general.
A global survey conducted by Gartner found that 88 per cent of businesses either mandated or encouraged their employees to work from home once the pandemic hit.
Even before these events, the number of people working remotely worldwide for some or all of the week was growing year upon year; the US Census Bureau found that 4.7 million people in America alone were already working remotely. DaaS speeds up this change, making it safer and easier.
“Demand has been growing for a number of years anyway, but it was accelerated by Covid-19,” said John J Murphy, head of commercial strategy at Arkphire. “It’s impossible to know exactly what will happen next, but I don’t see the trend reversing anytime soon.”
Six months on from when the lockdown was first implemented, many companies have discovered that working from home can be just as efficient as working in an office.
“Organisations are seeing that staff are acting professionally, and are as productive as normal,” said Murphy. “It’s potentially something that will change the face of working. It’s no longer a matter of coming to the office to get a PC, when working remotely on a laptop is just as functional.”
Arkphire’s approach is tailored to its users.
“Rather than talking about a specific application or technology, we look at all the components they need to be effective, working remotely or working in an office environment,” said Murphy.
“We deploy the device itself, the management capability and security posture, the software stack and the logistics components, and then deliver the device to the end user.”
Arkphire’s own security division can look after patching and updating the software, while their managed logistics services are able to ship the devices worldwide.
“We’re able to deliver a zero-touch deployment model,” Murphy said, “meaning the device doesn’t need to be pre-configured by anyone on our customer’s IT team. When devices leave our logistics office they’re wrapped in their original packaging. The user gets the satisfaction of unboxing a device.”
Similarly, Blueface makes it easier for the client at every stage of the device’s life-cycle. The Blueface Remote product combines cordless telephony with remote work features, ideal for anyone still working from home.
“We take care of everything from procurement to provisioning. Then when the devices arrive you can just plug them into your wall and make calls. We also do device maintenance; you’ll have a centralised platform with an overview of every device on the network. Even if you have an in-house IT team, they won’t need to visit all of your remote sites,” said Roche.
“With Device-as-a-Service, if there’s a phone in your office that doesn’t work, then someone will remotely investigate the problem and solve it for you. With more and more restrictions on movement, and uncertainty around what business will look like in 2021, that’s the kind of security that people need.”
The biggest advantage with DaaS is its versatility; as a service it’s scalable, flexible and inherently self-updating. There’s no limit on how big or how small a company needs to be to take advantage of the DaaS model.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is that even with the deployment of remote work, everyone still needs a deskphone,” said Roche. “Before the pandemic it was mostly used by larger enterprises, and mid-market SMEs with multiple sites, but now every business can benefit from Device as a Service.”
The beauty of this system is that it’s potentially customisable to anyone; Roche said “We’re catering to everyone, from large, 10,000-unit deployments that we have on our books already, to small start-ups that don’t want to invest in devices. It’s flipping from traditional business expenses to a monthly, recurring-revenue model.”