The “as-a-service” model has been around to support small businesses for quite a while, popularized with software-as-a-service such as Office 365. But hardware as a service (HaaS) is catching on and is another great option for small businesses looking to expand while keeping costs low.
What is Hardware as a Service?
Hardware as a service is a service level agreement where hardware is leased or licensed to a small business but owned by a managed service provider. Think of it as paying “rent” for the hardware devices that you need to run your business. You can also think of it as a subscription model for hardware. The managed service provider monitors, maintains, and upgrades the hardware as needed and the client pays for these services, usually with an all-inclusive monthly payment.
Within the context of grid computing, hardware-as-a-service can also mean paying to access the managed service provider’s grid and CPU power. Grid computing allows several computers to work together as a larger, faster computer, and clients pay to access that advanced computing power.
What are the benefits of Hardware as a Service?
More cost-effective than outright hardware ownership
Depending on the service agreement, you may pay a monthly, an annual, or a per-usage fee. All of these options will typically be cheaper than purchasing and paying to maintain the hardware in question, and most managed service providers offer a monthly payment system to make it cost effective for their clients.
Using HaaS allows small businesses to wisely reallocate funds from capital expenses to operating expenses. Rather than taking the time to save or get the approval to take out a significant loan for expensive hardware (capital expense), a small business can work with a hardware as a service provider to lease the hardware at a lower, monthly cost (operating expense.) Not only is this cheaper, as mentioned above, but depending on the size of your small business or the stakeholders involved, it is often faster and more streamlined to get an operating expense approved rather than a capital expense.
Repairs, upgrades, and replacements are typically built into whatever payment plan you agree on, which means that you don’t have to save or budget for unexpected repairs and replacements like you would when purchasing and maintaining hardware on your own.
Efficient replacements and upgrades for damaged hardware
Related to the last point, upgrades and replacements being included in the service agreement mean that they are also managed and completed quickly. You won’t be waiting around for days or weeks to get new hardware replaced, installed, and running efficiently. Maintenance is done quickly and reduces downtime for your small business. This also reduces the support burden on internal IT staff, or replaces the need for that position if your small business doesn’t already have or can’t afford one.
HaaS is also a scalable service, meaning you can increase or decrease the amount of hardware needed based on your company’s growth, identifying redundant hardware, etc. Using HaaS helps you work efficiently by identifying exactly what you need at each stage of development as your small business grows.
Just make sure that your managed service provider is clear about the circumstances and timing of replacing and upgrading equipment so that you don’t get unintentionally saddled with paying for out-of-date equipment.
Built-in upgrades as hardware and technology advance
Working with a managed service provider means that you have ongoing access to state of the art hardware that might otherwise be too expensive for your small business to utilize. You’ll never have to worry about trying to run a small business with obsolete hardware, constantly adjusting the budget as technology advances, or spending the time researching and installing the latest products. Your managed service provider will manage all of this and ensure that you have the hardware you need to stay up to date with technology in your industry and manage replacements and upgrades with minimal interruption to your business services.
Hardware as a service security
As with all hardware, you need to have a robust security plan in place. One of the challenges of working with old or obsolete technology is that you put your small business at a greater risk for hacking and other cybercrimes. Working with a managed service provider means that they are (usually) responsible for providing and maintaining security for the hardware and services you lease. They will be able to provide strong security at no extra cost, because security is one of the services they provide.
Again, make sure you understand how security responsibilities are split up between you and the managed service provider before you sign a contract. A good vendor will be up front about what they can and cannot provide within each package option available.
What types of hardware can I use with HaaS?
Small businesses can access laptops, tablets, monitors, smartphones, desk phones, printers, and servers, and more. You can also access managed services including cloud storage, support and troubleshooting, installment and upgrades, and even help desk services! Basically, any hardware or service you can own outright, you can access through your agreement with a service provider. The only difference is that these devices and services are owned and maintained by the managed service provider.
Are there downsides to Hardware as a Service?
As with any business agreement, you need to make sure that you know what you are paying for and that the services available in your agreement are what you want. When researching managed services providers, ask for a clear breakdown of the services provided for their payment plan. Some small businesses may find that, if they don’t need regular hardware updates or upgrades, the hardware as a service model may not be cost effective in the long run.
How do you know if Hardware as a Service is right for you?
Take some time to think about your small business needs and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to avoid large capital expenditures in favor of a fixed monthly fee that can make it easier to balance my business budget?
- Would I rather pay one fee for full-service hardware usage, maintenance, disaster recovery, and security to avoid surprise costs due to hardware crashes or needed upgrades down the road?
- Do I want access to the latest hardware without the worry of researching, installing, maintaining, and paying heavily for it?
- Am I constantly replacing and upgrading devices, and what percentage of my IT team’s time is being taken up by those tasks?
Your answers will be unique to your small business situation, but they can help identify if moving to a hardware as a service model will be cost effective, increase efficiency, and be more beneficial overall to your small business management and plans for future growth.
If you have questions about if hardware as a service is right for you and want to learn more about how it can improve efficiency while lowering costs for your small business, schedule a free IT assessment with Tech Masters today.
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