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PCaaS vs. DaaS: learn the difference between these services

While there is a lot of confusion surrounding DaaS -- devices as a service -- and PCaaS and what these services are defined as, but there may be less of a distinction than you think.

Managing desktops and devices can keep IT teams busy and leave them little time for innovation or more strategic projects. To reduce the load, some organizations consider PC as a service or device as a service programs.

PC as a service (PCaaS) and device as a service (DaaS) make it easier to procure PCs and manage them throughout their lifespans, and they can take some day-to-day management tasks off of IT's plate. It's not always apparent how PCaaS and DaaS differ -- or if they differ at all.

IT administrators should learn the exact definitions of these terms to better inform any purchase decisions of these services.

Understanding the terms DaaS and PCaaS

Many view PCaaS and DaaS as one in the same, while others view PCaaS as a subset of DaaS. Initially, vendors providing endpoints as a service only provided full desktops and laptops, which is how the PCaaS moniker came into being. The trend evolved to incorporate devices such as tablets and smartphones, making a conceptual move toward DaaS in both name and services.

To confuse matters more, the acronym DaaS can also stand for desktop as a service offerings, a cloud-based platform that offers virtual desktop services. Both PCaaS and DaaS take a different -- and in some ways, more traditional -- approach to desktop delivery compared to desktop as a service. PCaaS and DaaS provide subscription-based services that offer physical devices for on-premises use. These devices come with operating systems and software -- compared to desktop as a service's virtual images streamed to client systems.

PCaaS model features

The exact services that PCaaS or DaaS programs offer vary from one service provider to the next, but they all share the goal of simplifying IT operations. For example, a PCaaS vendor might offer fully configured desktops or laptops from its device inventory, along with lifecycle services. The vendor might install the OS and other software on the device and provide ongoing remote management, help desk services, and asset recovery when the devices are ready to be retired. These services make it extremely easy for an organization to provide its workers with the necessary PCs while minimizing the drain on IT resources.

However, not every PCaaS and DaaS vendor offers the same device models or managed services, nor do they necessarily use the PCaaS or DaaS labels consistently. Therein lies the problem of trying to distinguish between PCaaS and DaaS. The industry is a relatively young one, with definitions still evolving and solidifying; each vendor offers its own take on how to deliver these services.

Decoding vendors' PCaaS and DaaS offerings

An organization should not make assumptions about the service that a vendor is offering based on what it's called. Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft have been at the forefront of the PCaaS and DaaS effort, but they all take different approaches to naming and delivering their services.

Dell

The PCaaS program that Dell offers includes first-party Dell laptops, desktops and workstations. Dell offers two service models: PCaaS for Business and PCaaS for Enterprise. These two models are based on the number of supported PCs. Dell lets customers tailor the hardware, software and level of services to their needs. The program offers an end-to-end suite of lifecycle management capabilities that address deployment, support, management and asset recovery, with an emphasis on the user experience, according to Dell.

HP

Organizations can receive commercial PCs and workstations, as well as HP Chromebook Enterprise devices with HP's DaaS offering. The program includes three support plans -- Standard, Enhanced and Premium -- which each add more support options and management capabilities with each subsequent step. All three plans provide proactive asset management for both hardware and software, with support from either HP TechPulse or HP service experts, depending on the plan.

Lenovo

The DaaS program from Lenovo is specific to Lenovo notebooks and desktops. Customers can choose from preconfigured packages or request custom plans. Lenovo handles device support, protection, setup and deployment. The vendor manages both hardware and software, including device disposal and hardware refresh. Lenovo also provides flexible scaling during the contract term, Premier Support for customers, and expert diagnosis and remediation.

Microsoft

The Microsoft Managed Desktop offering started out with exclusively Surface devices, but then Microsoft added support for approved PCs from Dell and HP. The program offers customers support and inventory services, as well as firmware and driver updates. The devices are preconfigured with the most updated version of Windows, but Microsoft provides apps and other configurations via the cloud. In addition, Microsoft Managed Desktop offers Microsoft 365 Enterprise, which includes Windows 10 Enterprise and the Office 365 Enterprise suite of productivity applications.

What can we learn from the PCaaS vs. DaaS confusion?

Of these four products, Dell is the only vendor to refer to its program as PCaaS, which is fitting because it offers only Dell PCs. Likewise, Lenovo and HP refer to their programs as DaaS, but they also offer notebooks, desktops and workstations. However, the term PCaaS could easily apply to either of them. In fact, any of the three programs could adopt the DaaS or PCaaS label based on the market, even though they differ in the specific services they offer.

What all this points to is that customers can't simply rely on the DaaS or PCaaS label.

In contrast, Microsoft doesn't even enter the DaaS vs. PCaaS debate to describe its Microsoft Managed Desktop program, although many in the industry refer to the program as a DaaS offering. Microsoft's program is certainly similar in many ways to the others. However, it also supports third-party devices and includes Microsoft 365 Enterprise. Microsoft is primarily a software company, so it's no surprise that it would put its focus on delivering and maintaining software.

What all this points to is that customers can't simply rely on the DaaS or PCaaS label -- or lack of either one -- to understand the differences between programs. At one time, Lenovo's program was commonly referred to as PCaaS, but that has since morphed into Lenovo DaaS. Microsoft Managed Desktop used to be limited to Surface devices, but the company has since expanded its line of products to include PCs from other vendors.

Rather than trying to distinguish between the DaaS and PCaaS labels or assuming they're one in the same, organizations' purchase decision-makers should look past the names and into the services' features. They should evaluate each program by what it offers and how it can benefit their use cases.

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