You’re looking for a product that suits your company’s budget and requirements and the first question that will go through your head is “should I opt for software or get a hardware solution?” Both software and hardware have their advantages and disadvantages and it all depends on what the IT manager is looking for and why. For small and medium businesses (SMBs), known to have budget restrictions and technical resource limitations, software is often seen to be the best choice.

There are situations when hardware fits the bill, but there are eight reasons why software in most cases comes up trumps:

1. Software costs less

In most cases hardware solutions are more expensive than software products. The price of the appliance includes the costs of manufacturing, storage, delivery, defects, supply chain and all the other related expenses for a piece of hardware to go from drawing board to retail shelf. Act with caution if you’re offered a low cost hardware appliance – you may not be getting the quality and components you need.

2. Software can live side-by-side with other software

Many organizations now have virtualisation as a core component of their IT infrastructure, giving them the added benefit of getting the most bang for their buck from their hardware. You can easily have several software products on the same hardware, or even on the same server installation. Hardware appliances, on the other hand, are limited to a very specific purpose. This makes software solutions and virtualization ideal for SMBs who often need to be flexible.

3. Software is easier to back up

A software solution is very easy to back up and restore. If something goes wrong, bring out that tape and restore to your last backup point. You can’t do this with hardware appliances.

4. Software is much easier to upgrade

When you use hardware, you are stuck with the appliance’s specifications for the duration of its shelf life. What happens if your logs outgrow the storage space on the hard disk of the appliance? What happens if your company grows or shrinks? Software can be installed on almost any hardware, and then upgraded accordingly. You can deploy on multiple installations, or on multiple servers, when needed. You do not need to plan and buy large hardware “just in case”. When you outgrow your installation you can upgrade your server or scale-out, and in this way your old hardware won’t be thrown away; it will simply be repurposed.

5. Software is much easier to deploy

A lot of software requires few, if any, infrastructural changes to be deployed. Hardware appliances require more effort, including occasional infrastructural changes such as increased rack space, additional power, more cabling, etc.

6. Software is easier and cheaper to deploy across multiple branches

You don’t need to buy an additional appliance for each branch of your organization, and for seat-based installations you can have as many installations as you like.

7. Logistics

Software can be downloaded and installed. You don’t need to wait for the delivery of the appliance, hassle to get it through customs if delivered from another region, or return the product if it has a defect. Software even offers trial licenses to allow you to “try before you buy”.

There will always be occasions when a hardware appliance makes more sense, particularly if it’s a standard for the tech industry. That said, when you weigh the overall benefits, especially functionality, ease of use and costs, software is often the better option. As always, SMBs would do well to shop around and do their homework first before making a decision.


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