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Ingram offers maintenance management

Ingram Micro partners have been given a free online tool for tracking maintenance agreements customers have with three of their biggest vendors to ensure they don't miss lucrative contract renewals.

However, the distributor’s Canadian VARs will have to wait several months until the service is available here. Initially, it’s available only to Ingram’s U.S. partners.

The tool, announced last month at Ingram’s VentureTech Network conference in Montreal, comes from a deal struck with Maintenance.Net, a California-based online service provider which hosts the offering.

Ingram subscribers to what is called the Reseller Services Portal will be able to receive, or have forwarded to customers, e-mail alerts from IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems as the maintenance agreements for equipment come close to expiring. They can also search the portal for client information.

While a number of vendors already offer similar tracking, Ingram hopes the fact that the tool will combine reporting from three major manufacturers – plus, it hopes, more – will encourage VARs to use its portal.

“We want to help our solution providers capture the full potential of their maintenance annuity business,” said Nicole Aptekar, Ingram’s group marketing manager for services.

“Right now they might not have adequate tools to manage that data.”

First tests with HP
In the U.S. a number of Ingram partners have been testing the system with HP sales only.

As of April 3 it was available for IBM and Cisco products as well.

But before it can be rolled out here Ingram wants to be sure it’s offered in both French and English, and complies with Canadian privacy regulations, she said.

As in the U.S., it will first be tested with Hewlett-Packard in the coming months.

“We definitely see it (fully) up and running by the end of the year,” said Aptekar.

Although it’s not currently available in Canada, Ingram VARs can get a look at how it works and related issues through weekly Wednesday online workshops offered through the distributor’s partner Web site.

Shayne Skaff, Maintenance.Net’s executive vice-president of business development, wouldn’t say how much Ingram is paying for the service.

Maintenance.Net was created in 2001 to help users manage their IT maintenance agreements, he said, and later expanded to focus on distributors and manufacturers. That way information could be shared with all parties.

For VARs, “they’re not just selling a maintenance agreement to an end client but providing value around the management of that agreement, managing the lifecycle of the support contracts they’re selling, not just merely selling a piece of paper.”

The only other distributor the company has a deal with is Avnent, but Skaff said there are talks with Tech Data.