To Rugged or Not to Rugged

Posted by Oren Cohen

Fri, Dec 07, 2012

enterprise mobilityWhen looking at mobile tablets for businesses, some managers may jump on the iPad or other consumer device quickly because of its popularity and relatively low price. Before traveling too far down the road with the iPad, businesses should carefully look at the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the mobile tablets.

In an office or corporate environment filled with clean conference rooms and practically drop-free events, an iPad or consumer-grade tablet would absolutely suffice. But if your business involves more than an airport or conference room, carefully look at rugged devices and your options that are available.

For industries such as field service, the mobile devices are exposed to additional hazards. Also there could be security related concerns as well as compatibility issues that an over-the-counter iPad could not adequately address.

When examining your choices for mobile tablets, ask these questions to gauge your TCO:

Replacement costs – a VDC Research study finds that there is a 16.6% average failure rate of non-rugged tablets and notebooks, compared to 4.6% for rugged devices. Calculate your replacement costs based on the number of devices that will be deployed and the anticipated failure rate.

Productivity loss – while a device is down, the same VDC Research study determined that employees who depend on the mobile devices lose anywhere from 50 to 80 minutes of lost productivity after a failure. The loss of productivity can be significantly expensive for field service businesses.

Working environment – factors such as fluctuating temperatures, rain or moisture, dirt and dust can accelerate the rate of device failure for tablets that are not designed for these environments. For installation and repair services the devices can be subjected to a lot of drops and bumps as well as extreme climate exposure.

Glare and low lighting – using a consumer-grade tablet can be difficult in very bright sunlight, and low lit areas can quickly drain even the best consumer level device batteries. Rugged tablets have anti-glare screens and extended battery life for such issues.

Security – while many mobile devices have acceptable security features such as password protection and GPS location capabilities, rugged devices designed for corporations have additional security measures in place. These include the ability to remotely disable or wipe data from a stolen device and stronger levels of support based around corporate requirements.

Compatibility and lifecycle – the consumer tablet market introduces new products at least once a year, which can become an added burden for corporations to continuously manage upgrades and replacements of obsolete models. For businesses that utilize barcode scanners, printers or other devices there could be compatibility issues with the consumer-grade devices.

Initial purchase cost – iPads and other consumer tablets are relatively inexpensive when compared to rugged tablets because the rugged devices are specifically designed for longer term use (3 to 5 years) and are built to withstand the rigors of harsher environments.

Whether your business utilizes a rugged device or decides to acquire consumer-grade tablets will depend on your unique company needs. Be sure to consider all of the factors that contribute to your TCO before making your final decision.

Tags: Workforce Management Tips, Mobile Workforce Management, Developments in Field Service Management