Rugged versus non-rugged: It's a decision that field service enterprises need to consider as they evaluate mobile devices for their workforces.
Factors that go into the decision include the kinds of environments the gear will be used in, what level of abuse is anticipated, what expectations you have of how your employees will care for their devices, and what the total cost of ownership will be over the lifetime of your deployment.
We polled readers of our monthly Mobilizer: Field Service newsletter and our weekly Mobilizer newsletter to find out what's working for their mobile field forces.
Nearly half (47.3%) of the 55 respondents have rugged devices deployed in their field service operation, while 32.7% made the choice to go non-rugged. Nearly one fifth (18.2%) are using both, while a mere 1.8% say they're using neither.
The pro-rugged respondents say the environments their workers encounter require it. The non-rugged proponents cite the expense and share some of the ways they make their devices more durable. Among their comments:
"There is no question that the "out-of-office" environments routinely encountered, and the work culture of the field workforce strongly justifies the specification of ruggedized devices," says one respondent. "Non-rugged devices will work just fine for a time, but the statistics of typical events (devices dropped to concrete, banged on door sills, etc.) will quickly catch up with you, at which time the decision reverts to simple math. How many non-rugged devices will you need to buy to fulfill your uptime requirements vs. non-rugged devices for the same level of fulfillment? The answer is clear and points to the selection of ruggedized mobile equipment as the best business decision."
Another respondent from a software firm notes, "We sell to sales people who are using them in grocery aisles and do drop them. The cost is a barrier in a sale as I am a software firm."
This respondent sums things up for the "rugged" camp: "For a mobile workforce who is out in the public a compact rugged device is a must."
This respondent says non-rugged devices are cheaper in the long run. "Much cheaper. Devices are becoming more powerful everyday, and for the same price, you keep getting a better device. If the device survives two years, the cost of a non -rugged device is reduced further with a contract with a carrier."
Money is generally the prime issue for those who choose to go non-rugged. Says one respondent: "We would like to move to rugged devices, but it is tough to justify the expense at this time."
Another is happy with the decision to go non-rugged. "We have had very minor problems. It's working well for us."
These non-rugged users are turning to accessories to bolster the durability of their devices:
"With a www.mobiliscase.com
case, I divide my investment per two for the same level of protection. It's a great solution," says one respondent.
Another says, "We use BlackBerry devices with an OtterBox case. Great case that makes a non-rugged device rugged."
For more on rugged devices in the field, check out our feature article, Real-World Rugged.