Working around IT hardware supply-chain shortages

Why temporary workarounds may be preferable, how to fine-tune your longterm plan, and do’s and don’ts for the best results.

Why this is a Key Area during COVID-19:

Your employees need to have the proper remote-working equipment to be productive. Computers and accessories are in high demand and, while the supply chain from Asia is no longer disrupted to the point it was initially, specific IT devices and components may still be hard to find.

Until the supply chain returns to normal, work around the shortages in ways that don’t break the bank or make your organization vulnerable to cyberattacks. Since whatever you buy you’ll still own after the crisis, temporary options are often your best bet. If you’re short on computers, Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) allows employees to securely access your network from their home computers (Microsoft is offering three months of VDI free during the COVID-19 crisis). If you’re short on less expensive equipment, use whatever you can find for the time being.

Fine-tuning once you’ve transitioned to remote working:

Now that you’ve figured out which tools your team will use when working from home (see the do’s and don’ts below), it’s time to think about your company’s hardware from a longer-term perspective. You can ask:

  • Are the current hardware workarounds we’re using meeting our needs or would it be worth it to try to source additional devices to honor extended work at home orders? Ex: Laptops, monitors, keyboards, headsets, scanners, printers.
  • Have there been any recent changes to the supply chain or the viability of our current hardware suppliers?
  • Should we consider going the BYOD route with computers and peripherals in addition to smartphones?
  • Should we consider adjusting our hybrid-cloud strategy or supplier and vendor options moving forward?

Managing the basics during COVID-19:

For a real-life example, see below.


Make sure any new computers you acquire meet your company’s business standards. Deviating from your standard brand is fine if the alternative meets the same requirements.

Be flexible and creative. Accessories that are relatively simple and low cost — headsets, keyboards, mice, monitors, port replicators — use whatever you can find.

Check your used inventory for accessories to send home with employees. You can also shop eBay, Rakuten, TigerDirect, and others if you come up short.

Use cloud capacity for now and make purchases when they become available. The supply chain is starting to bounce back already.


Don’t invest in computers that won’t meet your needs later. Your employees probably have home computers comparable to the ones you can currently find at stores like Best Buy or Walmart. Use secure VDI during the crisis instead.

Don’t bother buying Chromebooks or Netbooks. They’re watered-down computers that probably won’t be able to run your VPN client or single sign-on solution.

Don’t invest in used computers. They may get you through the crisis but the time it takes for IT to configure them is usually not worth the cost. Again, VDI is a better option.

Don’t make your employees fend for themselves. Their solutions could be problematic for your IT department and organization.

An example of how to manage this key area

Social distancing wasn’t possible for the hundreds of employees working at a service company’s call center. Working from home wasn’t an option either because all of the employees didn’t have reliable computers and internet connections at home. By setting up workstations inside the 31 company stores that had connectivity to the main office, they were able to disperse employees safely— but they still faced a supply-chain shortage for the appropriate headsets. Leapfrog worked with the customer to think out of the box and determined that gaming headsets would deliver the functionality and quality they needed and were available to source immediately.