All in all, there's never been a better time for the field of computing. It's one of the most important industries in the world, and the fruits of its labor are absolutely everywhere. Even more impressively, Moore's Law continues to hold true more than 50 years after its inception.
Devices continually get lighter and thinner, while performance continues to increase at a notable rate. The laptops and tablets currently being produced by manufacturers like Dell are substantially better equipped and more capable than devices from even just a few years ago. They boast wider feature-sets, refreshed designs and even better video conferencing abilities.
However, this presents something of a dilemma for small businesses in terms of managing their IT estate. In order to ensure that their workforce can keep up with the competition and keep attracting strong talent and high-value clients, small businesses need to ensure that their IT is supporting staff, rather than holding them back with poor performance or underwhelming features.
On the other hand though, they don't necessarily want to have to shell out for a series of expensive devices every year or so, just for the sole purpose of keeping up with the latest advancements. Typically, organizations would often 'sweat the assets' as hard as possible, waiting to replace a laptop until the last possible moment in order to maximize the value that it's providing.
The downside of this plan is that, towards the end of the cycle (which can last between five and ten years), workers are stuck with distinctly elderly laptops that don't really meet their needs, and lack many of the quality of life improvements one might expect from a more modern notebook.
A further complication is that, for organizations who don't maintain a particularly large team of IT staff, rolling out a fleet of new devices every year is a daunting and complex task that may not be worth the hassle - particularly given the adjustment period that usually follows this kind of major change.
One solution to this dilemma has arrived, in the form of Dell's PC-as-a-service (PCaas) offering. Just like software-as-a-service and its many derivatives, this is a monthly subscription model, based on transitioning from a CapEx-based procurement model to an OpEx-driven one. This model originally found popularity in the cloud market, where traditional yearly licensing agreements for business software were disrupted by the introduction of flexible monthly subscription plans.
In this context, it means that rather than buying new devices outright, SMBs can roll the cost of the devices themselves - along with the cost of the software, support, servicing and maintenance needed to keep them running - into a single monthly payment. Because organizations are essentially renting the devices from Dell for a set period, they're free to change up to a newer device once their current contract comes to an end, resulting in newer devices for users without the expensive price tag.
PCaaS has a number of key advantages for SMBs; first and most obvious is that it allows organizations to take advantage of the features and capabilities introduced by new devices and technologies sooner. For example, the latest version of Dell's iconic XPS 13 notebook includes not just a 12th-gen Intel Core processor, but also Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4 compatibility - all technologies that weren't really around five years ago.
However, this model also offers economic flexibility for small companies that have big tech needs but don't necessarily have an overabundance of capital. The nature of the OpEx model means that you don't need to pull together enough cash for an outright purchase, allowing smaller businesses to access the IT capabilities boasted by larger organizations while bypassing the large upfront investment that would typically be required.
Another particular benefit for small businesses is the bundling of all the related support services and software into the monthly cost, which can help alleviate many of the pressures that often accompany small-business IT management. For example, those organizations operating with a minimal team of IT support personnel will be able to fall back on Dell to handle much of the associated device management workload.
Subscription-based pricing has proved to be an attractive option for everything from coffee to computers, and while it does mean that you can't sweat the assets for value, the lack of upfront payment means that you don't really need to. What you get is well-specified and well-supported devices at a single, consistent monthly price. For organizations that want a fast, straightforward way to get their hands on the latest tech capabilities, PC-as-a-Service may just be a gamechanger.
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Adam Shepherd is a Reviews and Community Editor for Channel Pro, Cloud Pro and IT Pro, and has previously written for PC Pro, PC Advisor and GamesRadar. He covers both business and consumer technology, but has a particular love for all things gaming, and is paying special attention to the emerging VR market.