How rugged IT is creating peace of mind in the enterprise
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How rugged IT is creating peace of mind in the enterprise

This is a contributed piece by Daniel Eden, Rugged Mobility Specialist at Dell UK’s Client Solutions Group

Technology that’s been tested in the field under extreme conditions is increasingly finding its place in the Public Sector as well as large enterprise and corporate markets. Particularly those enterprise customers where employees are required to operate in demanding environments and where there is a need for fingertip access to information, for example, Defence and Blue Light first responders. On the commercial side we are seeing increased demand from utility companies, and customers in the manufacturing, industrial, telecoms, waste management, oil exploration, energy and construction industries.

IT teams of companies that operate in such environments have a number of choices to make when purchasing the best equipment for staff.  Some may opt for thin client solutions that provide cost efficiency advantages, but aren’t suited for areas with poor or limited connectivity. Others may consider bulk purchasing standard devices that are quickly churned and burned in a harsh environment, but this approach can be as inconvenient as it is wasteful, not to mention the risk of data loss and corruption. A third option that is being increasingly considered today is the purchase of more durable ruggedised solutions which are designed for challenging environments.

Market research suggests that, more organisations today are starting to opt for the latter option, with the global rugged device market anticipated to grow by 5% each year between 2016 and 2020. But for many, question marks still exist around the durability and toughness of these devices – are they really as rugged as the name suggests? To help ease any uncertainty, Dell’s been collaborating with Steve Heaword, a former jungle warfare instructor and extreme survival expert. He has been testing rugged devices in some of the most extreme scenarios on the planet to see just how much they can withstand and perhaps most importantly, to understand what his experiences can teach enterprise users. Here are some thoughts from Steve on when rugged devices come in to their own:

  • When performance matters: “Rugged devices enable reliable high-performance computing in tough conditions, including extreme temperatures, dust, humidity and accidental drops. I’ve personally used a convertible rugged laptop whilst climbing a mountain in Johor, Malaysia, where its light weight and ability to perform in sub-zero temperature with no loss of capacity, was vital. It’s capabilities like these that make rugged technology perfect for construction manufacturing and industrial environments, where extreme temperature, dust, knocks and drops are a regular occurrence.”
  • When mobility is key: “In one of my latest trips to Negara, Malaysia I was caught in a flash flood and needed to climb a nearby tree to keep safe. On the way up, I accidently dropped my rucksack containing my rugged laptop over 30 feet. At the time I considered it collateral damage, but when I collected everything on the way down, they still worked perfectly. This is testament to just how tough these products are, and it’s what makes them perfect for on the move jobs, like first responders where workers may find themselves in a variety of conditions, and field operators who depend on mobile technologies that can withstand rough and tumble.”
  • In the field operations: “I wish I were making this up, but I once recall being trapped in mangrove, where I was forced to abandon my kit and rugged device. The fact that, after being dried out, the laptop started first time, was astounding due to the environmental contamination of the mangrove algae and bacteria. Businesses that operate regularly outdoors, such as those in the telecom sector and professionals that need devices that can stand up to an accidental dousing, would find this capability indispensable.”
  • When the mission is critical: “Rugged laptops are built to keep important applications up and running, at all times. Security must also be top-of-mind for organisations with a large mobile workforce. I recently carried out an escape and evade training scenario, where I needed to quickly download sensitive data onto an external drive, before burying the unit underground for some days. When I returned and uncovered the laptop, it ran perfectly. It is no wonder that military and federal agencies who rely on technology to help enforce national security, use rugged devices. Each of the devices performed admirably.”
  • To keep a handle on costs We know that Total cost of Ownership (TCO) is an important factor for IT departments across all sectors. By providing customers with devices designed to cope with harsh field conditions, it is possible to both reduce down time and maximise productivity. It essentially means that employees no longer need to wait for a new device to be deployed should their non-Rugged device fail, a reality that carries obvious time and cost benefits from an IT support perspective. That’s not to mention the extended device lifecycles that Rugged devices often carry too.”

It’s safe to say that most IT managers may not be trekking through the jungle or climbing trees to escape flash floods, but the scenarios presented by Steve can, nevertheless, provide valuable real-world examples for IT managers whose employees work in challenging environments. In an unsecure world, where your data could end up in enemy hands, having easy access to secure, reliable and up to date IT is no longer just a nice to have, it’s a table stake entry for many. These scenarios presented by Steve in many ways serve to highlight the real beauty of ruggedised IT - that when you make a purchase you aren’t just buying a tough and durable device, you’re actually buying complete peace of mind.  

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