Device-as-a-Service Is the Missing Piece in the Small Business Cloud Computing Puzzle

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Device-as-a-service will bring more flexibility to small businesses.

How do you get to the cloud?

Cloud computing has become a big deal in the business world, promising to make all those tedious, non-core IT chores a thing of the past. Within the cloud, an external company takes care of all the data storage, software issues, and information security that make up a major communications system like a video conferencing setup.

But how do you get to the cloud in the first place? Under most cloud models, the business is still left paying for and maintaining the cameras, microphones, and screens that carry all those video calls.

Now there’s a new model that uses the cloud’s subscription-based format to supply not software but hardware. It’s called Device-as-a-Service, a shameless play on the billion-dollar Software-as-a-Service industry moniker that includes much of the cloud’s functionality.

Don’t bother too much about remembering the name though, as Device-as-a-Service is certain to become just a feature of Software-as-a-Service, creating a hybrid that takes care of every aspect of a business’ video conferencing.

A LifeSize Pivot

One of the first companies to get involved in this hardware-meets-software fusion is video conferencing supplier Lifesize. It is currently rolling out such an offering in the UK with partner VideoCentric. Under the proposal, a small business gets to rent both the software for video calling and the hardware.

Incorporating Device-as-a-Service clients is something of a back-to-the-future move for Lifesize. As VC Daily wrote last year, Lifesize is in the second phase of its life after pivoting from an on-site hardware specialist to a cloud-computing supplier. That transition largely means Lifesize now acts primarily as a remote host and online support network, rather than visiting technician and hardware installer–and, of course, in both iterations it produces the software that carries the actual video conference conversation.

By shifting to the cloud, they’ve joined the booming Software-as-a-Service industry where programs, such as video conferencing apps, are delivered and managed remotely on a subscription basis. SaaS will generate more than $1 trillion in IT spending over the next five years as more and more U.S. companies switch to cloud computing to simplify their IT processes. Embracing DaaS, however, lets Lifesize act like a sleek SaaS company, while also finding a market for its video conferencing hardware devices and expertise.

Its clients, in turn, get the best of both SaaS and DaaS worlds.

Device-as-a-Service Delivers Flexibility

Lifesize has already struck such a hybrid deal in the UK, with The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a century-old accounting association. Under that agreement, Lifesize supplies both the offsite data storage and video conferencing software, as well as the HD webcams that will stage the video calls. That group may be a little more complex than your average small or medium business, but the advantages are the same.

It’s cheaper, as the cost of both software and hardware are spread across a monthly subscription. It’s simpler, as all the technical installation, maintenance, upgrades, and end-of-life replacements are handled outside the company. All these benefits mean it may spell the end of the local IT department. Most importantly, it’s flexible, as both subscriptions and devices can be added or removed depending on seasonal or financial fluctuations.

This hybrid state is really the most beneficial for smaller businesses. So much so, that DaaS may eventually be thought of as an essential part of any SaaS and not a separate entity at all.

More Than Renting a PC

The software/hardware merger is a perfect match for the video conferencing world, but there’s a reason it hasn’t yet become the predominant model. In addition to the fact that businesses use both their computers and cloud storage for things other than video conferencing, there’s the bigger reality that not every hardware or software supplier can provide both sides of the solution. Usually, there’s a partnership in place, like the Skype Room Systems collaboration between Microsoft’s Skype software and Logitech’s SmartDock hardware. The result is a dedicated system for Skype for Business users, but one that comes with two cost points–a Skype subscription and a Logitech purchase.

What a hybrid SaaS/DaaS product would do is reduce that expenditure to a single subscription–which would likely spread out but not ease the overall cost.

For small businesses though, this offering would all but eliminate the need for an on-site IT department and its related expenses. The external provider would be responsible for deployment, training, management, technical support, and the eventual end-of-life recycling and upgrade. There’s also no depreciation of assets to worry about, and no chance of buying too much or not enough.

The hybrid would make getting to the cloud as flexible and affordable as the cloud itself.

Image Source: Flickr CC User Chris Potter, www.ccPixs.com

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