back to article Renting IT hardware on a subscription basis is bad for customers

Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't know if the author was arguing for or against the motion.

    1. Jonjonz

      Re: Confused

      "Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis is bad for your customers"

      A negative statement.

      Followed by a binary choice:

      * For - Is it a vote for renting, or a vote against renting

      * Against - Is it a vote against renting or a vote for renting

      Seems like a trap to confuse people and produce worthless results.

      1. oiseau

        Re: Confused

        Seems like a trap to confuse people ...

        Surely not on purpose, just a slip up.


        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Confused

          It's not the first debate where the voting is not obvious. It also seems a bit odd having the vote after only the first article, with no option to change your vote after the opposing article. I wonder how many people will wait for the second article before voting?

          1. Wellyboot Silver badge

            Re: Confused

            The vote is for/against the motion - I agree having the motion framed as a negative doesn't scan well.

            voting early? - I'd think that given the years of support experience that many commentards have we mostly came to a personal conclusion about renting a long time ago!

        2. devin3782

          Re: Confused

          These have been confusing for some time now. Because one would logically assume that "For" is for the premise of the article and Against is well against it but this isn't the case.

          Is it relative to the article? No. Is it obvious? No. Hmmm this is a UX failure and you're quick to point out everyone else's so its time to fix your blunders.

      2. gotes

        Re: Confused

        It not that difficult. The motion (paraphrased) is "renting is bad"

        FOR - the author thinks renting is bad

        AGAINST - the author thinks renting is good

        1. Eff Flintstone

          Re: Confused

          >It not that difficult. The motion (paraphrased) is "renting is bad"

          >FOR - the author thinks renting is bad

          >AGAINST - the author thinks renting is good

          Hmmm. Perhaps it is more difficult than you assumed.

          From your statements I'm unclear about whether you are saying that:


          FOR means that renting is bad

          AGAINST means that renting is good



          FOR means that the author of the article thinks that renting is bad

          AGAINST means that the author of the article thinks that renting is good

          From the article I think the vote is about whether renting is good or bad - option (1).

          I think that your statement says option (2).

          1. dajames

            Re: Confused

            I wasn't even sure whether the author was in favour of things that are bad for customers ... it was that confusing!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Confused

              'FOR' means that you AGREE with a motion. 'AGAINST' means you DISAGREE with a motion.

              In this case, the motion is "renting is bad". Do you agree or disagree?


              1. Cuddles

                Re: Confused

                I'm not sure.

        2. J27

          Re: Confused

          It is on this side of the pond. In the UK the idea of negative negation is pretty popular. In the US, negative agreement is seen in most dialects. E.G. UK 2 negative = positive, 2 negatives = negative. As in. I ain't never seen no airplane no how. Means I've never seen an airplane.

    2. nautica Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      ؟ ¿ ! ‽

      "I know you think you believe that you know what said, but I'm not sure you understand that what you think I said is not what I meant"---anon

      In spades, here, and in previous "debates".

      Surely you can do better, El Reg? ...But history is not on your side; is not your friend.

    3. Jedit Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      The motions in Reg Debates aren't properly formally phrased. When I debated at school and university, motions always began "This House [believes/would]" - the House being the body of people debating the issue. Thus, when you voted you were always indicating support or opposal to the content of the motion.

      With that in mind, read the motion here as:

      This House believes renting IT hardware on a subscription basis is bad for customers.

      See how much clearer that is? If you vote For, then you are stating agreement with the belief of the House: that renting is bad. If you vote Against, then you are stating disagreement with that belief.

      It would be good if the Reg would pick up this formatting going forward. It's a minimal change, adding only three short words to the motion, but it would really help out.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's so much easier, who needs maintenance across a disparate workforce. We've got a vendor dealing with that headache, and it is truly the best thing I ever did.

    1. oiseau

      Re: Rent

      ... got a vendor dealing with that headache ...


      A headache actually labelled one by some DH beancounter.

      Who should not have been asked to opine on the matter.

      The migraine (note the different malady) starts when you get shafted by a comma that you did not notice in the nth paragraph of the contract you signed or when your hardware landlord's operation goes titsup.

      ... don't know if the author was arguing for or against ...

      Same here.

      I may have voted wrong but I think it's been made clear enough now.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rent

        My contracts were checked by legal, they're very good. The maintenance is working well. The payments make life easier for our finance teams. No bean counters have been involved outside of said bills.

        So whilst your experience is insightful, in my real world example it doesn't apply. For us, it's working perfectly and we're really pleased we made the switch.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rent

          Horses for courses though I'd say.

          In my multiple customer experiences, it's been a mixed bag. Some attempts to run their workload in the cloud were successful. Others not so much. Several were (and continue to be) a complete nightmare.

          When the cloud infrastructure fails, for whatever reason, the bigger problem is that a much larger number of businesses are affected. The business impact will vary from customer to customer. The customer has no control over how quickly their particular problem will be addressed. All you can do is email/call a contact that hundreds of other people will already be contacting.....

          1. oiseau

            Re: Rent

            All you can do is email/call a contact that hundreds of other people will already be contacting ...

            More or less the same scenario you find yourself in when the new, shiny, advanced and very reliable VoIP phone they replaced your perfectly working 40 year old copper based and virtually indestructible landline goes tits-up.


      2. Barry Rueger

        Re: Rent

        when your hardware landlord's operation goes titsup.

        This is always my first thought. Or when a company like Google arbitrarily shuts down an essential service on a whim.

        Contracts are fine, but ultimately it's about trust.

        Being able to launch a lawsuit isn't really a good replacement for having your business disrupted

        1. oiseau

          Re: Rent

          ... but ultimately it's about trust.



          Surely you jest ...


  3. vtcodger Silver badge

    Subscription vs lease?

    Is a hardware subscription somehow different from a lease? I suspect not much if at all. If it isn't, then the answer is clear. You need to talk to your accountants about whether it makes sense for you.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Subscription vs lease?

      Are Lombard / Blackhorse / whoever allowed to increase the monthly payments when they feel like it?

      Usually not.

    2. oiseau

      Re: Subscription vs lease?

      You need to talk to your accountants about whether it makes sense for you.


      That's usually a recipe for disaster.

      I have actually heard beancounters tell me that keeping a stock of DAT tapes to be able to do daily file server backups was an excess, that once every 72 hours was enough.

      You need to talk to your technichal staff about whether it makes sense.

      They are the ones who know what it is about.


      1. John70

        Re: Subscription vs lease?

        Once the bean counters lose 2 days of work and had to restore from previous backup and have to enter all those figures in again, they will soon learn daily file backups is a requirement.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Subscription vs lease?

        Yes, the technical folks should determine what equipment is needed.

        But the decision whether to buy or lease usually depends on things like tax and cash flow considerations. And the people who understand those are the accountants.

        Yes, a lot of companies make stupid decisions. In my experience, that usually isn't really the fault of the technical folks or of the accountants. It's the fault of management whose job is to talk to their experts and come up with the most viable solution for their particular situation.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Subscription vs lease?

          That's how it should work, but more often we see the beancounters being the ones in charge, not just "experts" to be consulted.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Subscription vs lease?

        You literally need to speak to both. Some leasing deals make more sense than others to a fiance team. Amazingly, technology isn't just an IT department decision, because it impacts others.

      4. Chris G

        Re: Subscription vs lease?

        A long time ago, in a far(ish) away land when I started my first business, almost every financial article would recommend getting business advice from your bank manager and/or accountant; I quickly learned that neither have any true understanding of any business than their own, and certainly no sense of entrepreneurial business.

        So no, ask beancounters for numbers by all means but business advice? No.

        If you are smart enough to start your own business, you are smart enough to interpret the numbers that others collate for you.

    3. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: Subscription vs lease?

      I wrote this and the di8fference is that a lease in longer term and usually has little flexibility, also the tax treatment can be different.

  4. John Robson Silver badge

    It's rare that you aren't already reliant on at least one external organisation anyway - even if that's your ISP

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you're dependant on a single ISP, then your manager needs to have a talk with you and a 2nd vendor.

    2. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      I wrote the article

      YEs, but the more vendors you are dependent upon the more risk you bear.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: I wrote the article

        And the more stuff you have in house the more risk you bear...

        Are you buying more reliable hardware than amazon is, are you looking after it better, are you tolerant of it's failure?

        For many small and medium sized companies... cloud acts to mitigate risk, they can't afford to employ a suite of people to look after the hardware.

        1. Observer!

          Re: I wrote the article

          So you never looked at the 107 pages of amazon's cloud service pricing then?

          Cloud = 0 cost certainty and no fixed price ever. Super high risk your monthly cost is fluctuates 2X, 3X 10X

          On Prem - 99% cost certainty and fixed price monthly cost fluctuates .97 - 1.03

      2. Short Fat Bald Hairy Man

        Re: I wrote the article

        Not really.

        From what I understand, this is suggesting using 2 (or more!) ISPs, one main and one backup.

        More reduces your performance risk -- but increases expenses, of course.

  5. Jonjonz

    Renting puts you business way out on a limb you cannot easily climb down from.

    It puts your business in an environment you have zero control over, for things like security, safety, disasters, and at the whims/greed of who collects the rent.

    If those don't matter to your business, then it is cheaper in the short term, but could cost way more in the long run.

    1. cupplesey

      Noo Just Business

      This is not just a business issue <insert_need_or_demand>as-a-Service is only going to increase. The world is just heading this way for anything that can be made that way and soon on-prem either wotn be a thing or just a limited option. Most services are also going subscription based, if you stop paying you stop having access, hardware, software, gaming etc so the cloud is not much different. I know its more varied than that currently but that just that way its all going.

  6. big_D Silver badge

    In house...

    we keep everything we can in-house.

    With everybody disappearing into home office, that meant large orders or laptops. But a clear policy: no private data on company devices (computers, smartphones, storage media etc.) and not company data on private devices.

    If you are going into home office, you get a laptop, dock, keyboard, mouse and external display(s). Due to German law, if the people remain in home-office after the lockdowns, the employer has to ensure the workspace meets health & safety guidelines, so there could be desks and chairs added to the list in the long run, one of the reasons management is keen to get people back into the office after lockdowns are over.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: In house...

      "one of the reasons management is keen to get people back into the office after lockdowns are over."

      Surely the one-off costs of equipment for home office employees is less than the office space rental? Unless the company owns the office building?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: In house...

        They own the buildings and we are a manufacturing company, so most workers have to be onsite, they want as many on site as possible.

        Also, the cost of a desk in the office is a one-off cost. If you have to order desks for all workers in home office, you have to pay extra to have them delivered to hundreds of addresses, instead of one central location. Also, when the employee leaves the company, you have to arrange for it to be collected and moved to storage, then moved again to the new employee’s residence.

  7. Giles C Silver badge

    Depends on workloads

    If you have a reason to need huge amounts of computing power for very short term jobs, then renting in the cloud can make sense as for 364 days of the year it isn’t really used.

    If however you use the same systems day in day out and know what they do then it seems easier to keep it on site. How you pay for it depends on those strange bean counters.

    A place I used to work out had everything leased and then someone worked out they were paying for 10 year old desktops every month…

    They went back to straight purchasing then as at least we got some residual value back if we sold off old kit

  8. anteck7

    The answer to this is it depends.

    Are your users homogeneous? How many systems do you have? Are there legacy systems/apps or they all web accessible?

    The trap here is falling into assuming its always good or always bad without doing that analysis or understanding what your user base (the entire thing, not just the bosses) really needs.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Subscriptions: giving people an umbrella when Sun shines, and getting it back when it rains heavily

    I've worked for start-ups that sometimes went into some financial troubles. Not having too many things rented, meant we could get past that troubles because we still had the software and the hardware needed to keep on working, even if it meant no more upgrades and no 24x7 onsite support with spare parts - we were skilled enough to look after the hardware ourselves.

    Even now, I have some old hardware which is still useful and let us have a lab where we could experiment in ways that would be far harder to do in a cloud environment, with no costs besides the power.

    Sure, if I had to attempt to launch a big public web application I wouldn't buy the hardware to run it - rent it and if it is not successful just wind it down. But for other tasks? I know people who had to change their PC in the wrong moment of a complex project because the lease expired and they were forced to change it. Like it or not, a developer's machine is not easily interchangeable.

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Working at home has meant we are increasingly supporting home hardware

    Nope. It meant the company adapted to provide hardware for people working for home. Security and confidentiality are the first reasons for this. BYOD is already a security hazard, WFH shouldn't be an occasion to make it worse.

    . But the cheapest computer is one you don't have to pay for

    Why focusing so much on cost? It's ROI that does matter. Most of the companies I know who focused on reducing costs whatever the consequences generally disappeared in the following years.

    As often for that kind of question, I don't think the answer can be black or white. There are many shades of grey to consider (who said 50?)

  11. nautica Silver badge

    This makes a lot more sense than hardware and software subscriptions...

    “Taco Bell wants to sell you a 30-day taco subscription”

    By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

    Updated 9:26 AM ET, Tue September 14, 2021

  12. Steve Channell
    Thumb Up

    Architecture absents

    Time was when hardware provision took so long that hardware order needed to be placed near the begging of a project.. which meant we needed quite a good idea of architecture early on.

    Architecture modules needed to be quite comprehensive and sized to avoid ordering the wrong platform.

    Without the architecture trigger, it is tempting to skip the platform architecture phase completely, and presume cloud scalability.

  13. Johan-Kristian Wold 1

    This is very much dependant on circumstances.

    For instance - Storing stuff in the cloud can make perfect sense for a small company. Maintaining a simple file server with redundancies, backup, software and maintenance costs can be very expensive per user per year when you are talking about less than 10 users.

    Other services are even more expensive to keep going - accounting systems comes to mind, with typical small to medium companies having only one one or two people doing accounts. A lot of small and medium companies here in Norway are now using cloud based accounting systems, minimising running costs and security risks.

  14. Jeff 11

    Debate scope is vague

    I’m not sure what the proposition is - whether ‘hardware rental’ means merely renting physical office or server equipment, renting dedicated infrastructure in the cloud, virtual infrastructure, or a vendor providing fully managed IT. The content suggests it could be any or all of them and I can’t really glean which Dominic is arguing against.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Debate scope is vague

      Exactly. It really changes the point of the debate what hardware is included in this. For example, renting some infrastructure, such as servers in a cloud provider's DC, can make sense because it's easy to change how much you have. If you need more servers today, you start renting them then, and when you don't need them tomorrow, you shut them down and stop paying immediately. The article, however, seems to focus on desktops. Those are less likely to have such a spiky profile and renting could come with a variety of complications. If you have a rented desktop, who puts in a new disk if the original fails, who images it when it changes hands, and who decides when it's old and will be replaced? I could see it working somewhere maybe, but there are so many ways I can see it failing badly that I would be very cautious.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The House proposes

    Perhaps we need another vote on which side of the argument the article is trying to make.

  16. Observer!

    Poorly constructed motion.


    "Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis is bad for your customers"

    How does renting affect my customers? vs How does it affect me?

    Much better candidate motions:

    1) "Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis is a poor decision"

    2) "Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis is a poor financial decision"

    3) "Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis is a both a poor financial and operating decision"

    4) "Renting your IT hardware on a subscription basis negatively impacts your customer service"

  17. TheMeerkat

    So the company saves money by making employees to use their own equipment to download a client to connect to a remote machine?

    Why should I pay for any equipment that I use to work for my employer?

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