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IT groups eschew BYOD, issue company-owned tablets

John Cox | July 13, 2012
After several years of struggling to accommodate personally-owned smartphones, many corporate IT groups are taking the opposite tack with tablets: they're issuing corporate-owned iPads and Android tablets. And partly as a result, at least some are seeing a jump in costs for mobile end user support, redesigned custom applications, and device administration.

Broken tablets, support costs

One issue starting to emerge for some of these companies is breakage or other tablet failures. "One of my complaints is the fragility of the devices," says Hawthorn's Hilton. "I'm underwhelmed by their durability." After five to 10 iPad screens were broken and shipped out to a third-party depot for $160 worth of repairs each, including shipping, Hilton decided to bring the repairs in-house: so far about 20 of the 120 original devices have run into problems.

"We probably could have bought a more durable case, but I was hesitant to wrap this flash device in something that would make it look like a tank," he says. "I thought we had found a good compromise between convenience and protection." [You can see examples in this GearZap review of rugged cases from OtterBox, Case-Mate, CoolBananas, HardCandy, and Speck CandyShell.]

Bayada has a tablet "break rate" of less than 5%, which hasn't been painful so far, says Andrew Gentile. Users ship a broken device to IT for evaluation, and IT coordinates repairs and replaces the tablet for the user if necessary.

Dealing with broken tablets is only one small part of the related support costs, which involve not only the traditional help desk, but also corporate wireless LAN upgrades (both performance and coverage), administration and provisioning, and even creating a new generation of custom applications that can fully exploit the tablet's strengths.

Support costs are one of the biggest elements in the total cost of ownership for tablets, says Aberdeen's Borg. Enterprises are taking several steps to minimize support headaches. One is simply standardizing on the iPad and on a given set of custom corporate apps to simplify the support issues.

"But the support infrastructure for the [mobile] platform is less mature, compared to the Windows laptop support infrastructure," he says. "At the same time, the iPad platform is more stable. It's also a 'walled garden,' so malware is not yet a major issue. And there are fewer points of vulnerability compared to a Windows PC."

The Ottawa Hospital has a team of roughly 35 support staff caring for 12,000 PCs, but nearly the same number caring for about 3,000 iPads, and that doesn't include application developers, network support staff and others. "It's an indicator that I need to focus some attention on efficiencies, rather than on speed-to-implement," says CIO Potter. "It will be a challenge for years to come."


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