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Learn about the device-as-a-service model and its use cases

Device-as-a-service offerings can help IT pros provide their users with support and high-functioning devices, but they must consider the ramifications of choosing such a program.

IT professionals must determine the lifecycle of end-user devices, find the right device support and upgrade failing devices, all while staying within their budget.

It's possible to juggle these responsibilities, and many IT pros do, but they can use the device-as-a-service model -- a subscription model where a vendor leases out devices to an organization's users -- to ease their management burden. With device as a service, the vendor provides all the support, maintenance and repairs.

End-user device vendors, such as Dell Technologies and Lenovo, offer device-as-a-service plans that organizations can subscribe to.

Benefits of device-as-a-service

Some of the advantages of the device-as-a-service model are obvious. For example, it gives IT a single point of contact for all its troubleshooting needs. The vendor is responsible for all the aspects of device maintenance and service, so IT doesn't have to contact multiple hardware and software vendors when trying to fix user issues. With a third party managing device service and maintenance, IT pros are free to work on other tasks.

Another advantage is the shorter device lifecycle. Most organizations will find they can give users new devices and upgraded hardware quicker with the device-as-a-service model. If IT pros manage device lifecycles in-house, they probably have users keep slightly underperforming devices to minimize spending on new hardware. Device-as-a-service agreements aren't as restrictive, however, and users can expect quicker hardware refreshes.

In some cases, a device-as-a-service agreement can include some cost-cutting incentives for organizations. Some vendors appreciate the certainty of having a customer subscription, so they are willing to negotiate down some of their prices.

Device options

One of the most common device-as-a-service options is PC-as-a-service (PCaaS), a model that has organizations pay a set subscription fee to a vendor to lease PCs and support. This offering helps organizations scale up and down based on the number of PC users it has.

If an organization hires 20 workers under the PCaaS model, it can minimize the upfront cost of adding new PC hardware by bumping up its subscription by 20 users rather than purchasing 20 new PCs. The same logic applies for an organization laying off 20 employees; cutting down a subscription is much easier than selling 20 devices.

With a third party managing device service and maintenance, IT pros are free to work on other tasks.

PCs are among the more attractive choices within the device-as-a-service model because of their high cost and complicated lifecycle management, but organizations can also lease laptops and mobile devices. Vendors are making some progress in the laptop and mobile device market with choose-your-own-device plans that allow workers to select a device from several options, providing them with some level of choice. Mobile devices are more difficult to match with device as a service, however, because of existing BYOD programs where users work with their personal devices.

Potential drawbacks

The device-as-a-service model reduces an organization's flexibility when it comes to choosing different vendors' devices. The single point of contact for support is helpful in some ways, but it also locks an organization into the devices that vendor supports. Some vendors support devices that aren't their own products, but support options from any single vendor are far from universal.

Another possible issue is the inherent conflict with device as a service and BYOD, especially when it comes to mobile devices. Organizations may want to outsource all of their device support if they enter into a service agreement, but users with personal mobile devices or laptops will have to alter their device use, or the company might even eliminate BYOD. Organizations could face user backlash if they scrap a BYOD plan.

The device-as-a-service market is not very mature, so there may not be an offering that perfectly matches each organization's needs. HP was one of the first movers in this market, launching its first device-as-a-service offering in 2016.

Microsoft offers a device-as-a-service subscription called Microsoft Managed Desktop, which gives users access to Microsoft managed devices, as well as Office 365 and Windows 10 Enterprise. With this offering, organizations get support, hardware refreshes, device replacements and more from Microsoft.

Organizations considering a switch to this model should be patient and wait for an offering that matches their needs rather than rushing to lock in an offering from this developing market.

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