A popular delusion goes that most startups employ tech geeks that can assemble a corporate server in no time while managing this hardware by spending a few hours of their spare time a week on server management. Startups are not born equal and they operate across a variety of industries, ranging from hardware innovators, to software developers, to transportation, to healthcare to banking and finance.
The chance is low for an average startup to employ dedicated server experts and server maintenance staff. Furthermore, the average startup operates with limited budget while server hardware and software is quite expensive. Most importantly, a startup should focus on its core activity to make progress. Why should you buy and operate costly and hard-to-manage hardware while outsourcing these operations will enable you to utilize your resources in the right direction – developing your product or service.
With global hardware spending exceeding $1 trillion by 2019, organizations worldwide have plenty of computing machines to configure, operate, and maintain. The world is heading toward a completely inter-connected global economy and while cloud services are on the rise you still need reliable hardware to access third-party service. Moreover, organizations will always need in-house hardware to feel secure while performing certain business operations.
The Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) model is gaining pace due to the increasing complexity of managing business hardware in-house. You should add the payroll costs related to employing hardware specialists. These costs are especially burdening for small and medium-sized businesses.
The Managed Hardware Model
In short, the HaaS model enables organizations to take advantage of managed solutions where a managed service provider (MSP) is taking care of managing all or part of the hardware that is on the customer’s premises. Usually, a contract for managing your hardware includes also a service level agreement (SLA) that defines the level of service.
You have two options for benefiting from managed hardware. A MSP can manage hardware you have selected and purchased. In this case, you own the hardware. Another option is to have the MSP installing their own hardware where you pay an agreed fee for the use and maintenance of the hardware. Both are viable options as the service provider will maintain the hardware and manage hardware configurations while replacing outdated or corrupt devices.
It is a cost effective approach when you look at the global hardware spending stats. Last year, organizations worldwide have increased their hardware budgets by 52 percent, on average. These figures translate into billions of dollars for purchase of new hardware, which requires setup, configuration, as well as planned and preventive maintenance.
Furthermore, business hardware is getting more and more sophisticated, requiring very qualified staff for properly configuring and maintaining complex hardware infrastructure. In the HaaS managed model, you have the hardware installed on site as opposed to the Infrastructure-as-a-Service approach where the hardware is housed at the MSP’s site. Thus, you have additional guarantees in regard to the physical security and operation of the hardware.
Challenges to In-house Hardware Management
If you have a single server and a few PCs in your office, you would better hire a part time IT expert to configure and maintain your hardware. Going to enterprise level, including small and medium businesses, you face completely different challenges.
First of all, you need to select hardware that best fits your needs and requirements. It seems easy on the surface but today’s enterprise hardware must meet a variety of software and networking requirements, compatibility and inter-operability aside. A reputable managed service provider can help you select the proper hardware and network configuration for your business, saving you hundreds of hours of research and thousands of dollars in hardware costs. Even one incompatible device can ruin your entire network or make it inefficient, for instance.
Replacement of ageing hardware is another challenge as hardware manufacturers release multiple new devices and chips on a monthly basis. You need to follow the hardware industry trends on a daily basis to be fully aware what hardware to choose for replacing older configurations, which is a hell of a task when your business is not IT. Actually, the best practices for maintaining up to date hardware is to replace business critical hardware every three to four years. So, opting for a managed hardware solution will save you both valuable time and money when monitoring your hardware and replacing it.
Many people believe that managed hardware solutions are suitable only for server configurations and server infrastructure. If you look at the breakdown of hardware budgets above, you will notice that overall organizations spend about 32 percent of their hardware budgets on purchasing desktop and laptop computers. Another 11 percent are spent on the purchase of tablets and printers. So, servers are not the only hardware for which you need continuous support and maintenance.
You have desktops, laptops, and other mobile devices, which are as crucial for your business operations as your servers are. Maintaining dozens or hundreds of personal computing devices is beyond the ability of many organizations. A scenario where your CEO’s laptop is crashing unexpectedly due to, say, hard disk failure can turn into a nightmare by losing invaluable information that is not backed up on a server. That is where a managed hardware solution will prove handy.
How do you know if a hard disk is about to crash? Proper preventive maintenance requires application of specific practices and constant monitoring of the state of all your hardware. Which is not only challenging but also very costly if you perform it relying entirely on your own resources.
The Server Software Problem
Your hardware is not just a piece of metal and silicon chips. It cannot operate without software and your security starts at the level of firmware and properly updated and patched third-party software.
A modern enterprise hardware configuration consists of multiple devices by different manufacturers. Any of them installs their own firmware, business software aside. Patching and updating the firmware and all the business-critical software is a challenge itself, not to speak that firmware is installed at low level that requires specific IT skills. Demand for secure hardware infrastructure is increasing and will be increasing further as the Internet-of-Things networks become widespread in the next decade.
To conclude, managing today’s multifaceted hardware configurations and infrastructures requires specific skills that are in high demand. Finding hardware talent is becoming an increasingly challenging task, especially for SMBs. That's why switching to a managed hardware solution is a viable alternative to the resource-consuming in-house hardware maintenance for a growing number of startups and established businesses.
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