Microsoft Offers Services Incentives to Small Business Server Channel Retailers

REDMOND, Wash., July 13, 2002 — Suppose a taxi driver couldnt drive a cab unless he was also a mechanic, able to service his own car. Or a dentist couldnt practice unless she could build her own drills. Or a journalist could only be published if he could run and maintain the presses.

While these may seem absurdities, they are not far from how business computing can sometimes be for a small business owner. Smaller companies, which are often in a position to benefit most from technology, are typically not trained in deploying and managing technology, and lack an internal information technology (IT) department.

These are challenges that Microsoft Small Business Server 2000 addresses for small-business customers. This network solution is designed specifically for small business — in other words, those who have no time to learn how to deploy and maintain a computer network because their staff is completely committed to establishing and running the business.

Bill Veghte, vice president of Microsofts Windows Server Division

Small Business Server 2000 customers stand to benefit most from the product when it comes complete with essential services such as implementation planning, integration, support, ongoing maintenance, and training. While services are nothing new as a part of a technology sale, Microsoft intends to be sure small-business customers are fully aware of, and have access to, the services they need to get the maximum value from their technology. This is where the Microsoft channel partner comes in.

“The initial need a customer has is computers and software, but you cannot stop there — thats just the beginning, not the end,”
says Arnie Bellini, president of ConnectWise, a system integrator and Microsoft channel partner in Tampa, Fla.
“Dont assume for a second that all they need is for you to provide some technology and they will be able to appropriately assimilate it. They cant do it without additional services.”

For its part, Microsoft is helping ensure even the smallest server customers reap benefits from value-add services. Today the company announced a Channel Incentive Program, which offers a number of benefits for partners who offer services with Small Business Server 2000. While details of the program vary by region, such benefits can include new technical and marketing resources, a hands-on lab and business opportunity event from Microsoft on use and support of Small Business Server, and up to a US$500 rebate to partners for services they deliver in conjunction with Small Business Server 2000.

“We know that our success hinges on the success of our partners – from the smallest reseller to the largest global systems integrator,” says Bill Veghte, vice president of Microsofts Windows Server Division. “Our No. 1 goal is customer satisfaction, and we believe equipping our channel partners with tools, resources and incentives to enhance their services offerings ultimately creates more satisfied customers.”

Services Help Reduce Ownership Costs

Even before the incentive program, many channel partners found services an invaluable part of their offering. This, Bellini says, is because technology can be an expensive proposition, especially for smaller companies.

“The price of technology is equal to the cost of software plus the cost of equipment, plus the cost of maintaining it, plus the cost of learning the technology,”
he says.
“What small to midsize businesses find is that the cost of IT can be phenomenally high, too high for them to participate. At the same time, small to midsize businesses can gain the most from efficient and productive use of technology. One of the ways you can make it affordable is to have a single vendor providing all of those elements.”

As an example, Bellini says ConnectWise aims to set itself up as a
“virtual IT department”
for a smaller business. ConnectWise provides the services an internal IT group would, including system integration services, design, implementation, and management of its customers technology infrastructure, remote server and network monitoring, Web development, hosting, and more. This eliminates the overhead, ongoing technical expertise, personnel and resources a small company would require to keep these functions in-house, allowing it instead to focus those resources on solving other key business problems.

“IT is not generally part of the core skill sets of a small- to midsize business, yet its still a necessity,”
he says. With Small Business Server, companies like ConnectWise make it possible to outsource the whole IT department function, at a great cost savings to the customer.

While many Microsoft channel partners already offer most or all such services, the Channel Incentive Program will help drive resellers to make services a critical part of their small business offerings. While program details vary by country, the typical first step for a channel partner who is new to Small Business Server is an invitation to a free business opportunity session and hands-on lab event that focuses on Windows Servers for small businesses. Additional resources will typically include free self-paced training materials, technical and marketing resources, and a free evaluation copy of the product. All of this readies partners to participate in the channel services rebate promotion.

Microsoft Training Adds Up to Credibility

Eliot Sennett, president of ESI Enterprises near Boston, says his system-integrator business benefits from the training Microsoft provides.

“I dont think channel partners on the whole have built their credentials and credibility as strongly as they could on Small Business Server,”
he says.

As a result, theres a sense that any reseller could install it and get it up and running. The product offers a tremendous value to small businesses, but customers dont get that value if its installed by a person who doesnt really know what hes doing.

“Customers want to know theyre getting a great product and one that is deployed and configured by a person trained to do it well. Were getting resources from Microsoft that will help say we are trained and are highly qualified to do a masterful job installing the product and making it work for you.”

Sennett says his company also focuses on providing small businesses with the same services that a Global 500 company would get — that, after all, is what the customer expects and deserves.

“Customers want to be sure that the channel partner who provides the product can install and configure it so that it works for their environment. When youre in competition with other technology providers, the ability to offer enhanced services and do a better job is one way to get the best reputation in the field.”

Increase Customer “Touches”

Microsofts ultimate intent with the Channel Incentive Program is for customers to get the maximum value out of their Small Business Server 2000 solution. Supplementing the product with quality services and enabling a stronger long-term relationship between the customer and their technology partner is key to making that happen.

“The Channel Incentive Program is a way to support our channel partners in engaging with the customer,”
Veghte says.

When you build a model of services around a great Small Business Server product, you have the opportunity to build long-term, highly satisfied customer relations.

“At the same time, we also are shifting the way customers define the value of Microsoft solutions,”
Veghte adds.
“Value is equal to the benefits in the software plus the services delivered by channel partners in conjunction with that software. We want our server customers to start with us, with Small Business Server, and grow with us, with the Windows Server family of products, as their needs change or expand. And services are a critical part of that, by creating an environment in which the customer can develop an extended relationship with their reseller.”

Says Bellini,
“Customers often do not know precisely what they want; they dont know what solution they should have. So theyre asking IT consultants for advice and recommendations to set them on the right path. This incentive program from Microsoft offers a way for more channel partners to be a trusted advisor, delivering enhanced services and consultation to their customers. And thats good for both the partner and the customer.”

Microsoft Small Business Server 2000 is the ideal first and essential server solution for small businesses, designed to deliver simplicity and value to meet the unique requirements of small business customers. Optimized for channel delivery and support, Small Business Server 2000 enables file, printer, and application sharing; e-mail and group scheduling; secure, shared Internet connectivity; and remote network access, all built on a proven Windows 2000 platform on which customers can run any of thousands of server-based business applications.

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