Slow economy could mean good times for SaaS

Ingram Micro has rolled out more software-as-a-service offerings, at a time when SaaS seems to make sense in the channel.

While there’s talk of a slowdown in the tech industry, VARs are looking for ways to increase business with existing customers and recruit new ones – and one way of doing that is through managed services. This isn’t a new concept, of course, but when times are tough, that’s when people look to make changes. In a booming economy with more work than you can keep up with, there’s not a lot of incentive to change your business model.

We’re also seeing more players – especially tier-one players – get in on the SaaS game. Symantec, for example, has just rolled out two storage-as-a-service offerings: Symantec Online Backup and Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec. Other vendors such as EMC and Iron Mountain are already playing in this space, but this is Symantec’s first foray into the hosted backup and storage market.

And while Ingram has already been offering a range of managed services to its Seismic customers, it’s now adding mainstream Windows-based SaaS solutions to the mix. This includes Windows SharePoint 3.0, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and 2003, as well as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. These can be private-labeled by Seismic partners, and monthly pricing can be established on a per-user basis.

According to Ingram, hosted Exchange services are in high demand right now, since businesses are increasingly relying on mobile devices for communications. So that nationwide CrackBerry addiction could bring in monthly recurring revenue for VARs.

Many industry analysts also say the demand for SharePoint is booming, as we’re seeing a move toward increased collaboration and Web 2.0 tools in the workplace. For VARs, this type of SaaS offering provides an opportunity to bring the Web 2.0 world to their customers – with parameters. And having those parameters is much more appealing to upper management than something they have no control over, like Facebook.

And, of course, this allows VARs to target smaller customers who can’t afford to bring this technology in-house or don’t have the skill-sets to maintain it. They’re also typically able to make changes in their business processes faster than larger corporations.

Seismic partners receive a 99.9 per cent uptime guarantee on shared servers and a 100 per cent uptime guarantee on dedicated servers. This is something VARs should be on the lookout for when teaming up with a distie or vendor for managed services – it’s not just the service provided, but whether that service will actually be available whenever the customer requires it.

Despite talk of a recession, research firm Gartner says the IT services market will continue to grow. So this could be a good time for distributors to up their game in the managed services market, and a good time for VARs to consider a new approach to their business – so long as they find the right partner.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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