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Ingram Micro offers online training, certification classes to channel

Responding to hefty travel expenses, Ingram Micro is offering online training and certification classes to be used by channel partners as well as sold to their customers as a value-add.

Ingram Micro is now offering online training and certification classes in a range of technologies, including virtualization, security and networking, that solution providers can offer to their own engineers and sell to their customers.

The Live Online classes, immediately available to U.S. and Canadian partners through Ingram Micro subsidiary VPN Dynamics, will provide online training in technologies from several vendors, including Citrix Systems, CheckPoint Software Technologies, Juniper Networks, Meru Networks, SonicWALL, VMware and Websense.

This is Ingram Micro's first stab at live online training.

"There was live training and then there was Web-based training, where people went through and did self-paced and self-guided programs. These two things existed on very wide ends of the spectrum," said Ken Bast, vice president of vendor management at Ingram Micro. Increased bandwidth speed has made it easier to network people into live online training, he said.

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While the program is partially geared at channel partner engineers and technicians, it is also an offering they can sell to "build up their service margins and strengthen their role as the trusted IT provider," Bast said.

Beyond the potential financial benefits, selling the training and certification classes through the channel can "eliminate the pain-in-the-butt" technical calls from the end user to the sales engineer, said Jeff Borovitz, sales manager at VPN Dynamics.

Until Ingram Micro got into the training business, channel partners often had to pass their customers off to third-party companies that offered classes, said Tim Carney, CEO of Fremont, Calif.-based The NetworkGuys Inc., an Ingram Micro partner that sells technology from a few of the vendors in the training program. Live Online is a way to avoid involving another company, and it's a way for Ingram Micro to differentiate itself from other distributors. For partners, it's a way of offering a complete package to the customer.

The online training and certification program also means that solution providers spend less money and less time on staff training.

"That's a big advantage to us. Our guys bill at $200 per hour, so daily that's $1,600. For a three-day training, there goes $4,800 that we can't bill because they're in training," Carney said. "This eliminates travel time and travel cost."

In an effort to make the online training and certification classes as valuable as their live counterparts, Live Online offers the seminars in real-time and slates six participants or fewer per session. Borovitz said attendees can get more attention in an online class than in the classroom, because there are so few participants and they can get real-time help from the instructor.

Attendees also benefit from what the company calls "24-hour sandbox time," meaning that VPN Dynamics leaves the equipment up and running virtually so engineers can "come in and play" for 24 hours after the class ends.

"The response has been great," Borovitz said. But the proof is in the pudding -- unsatisfied users can complain and get a voucher for another class. So far that hasn't happened, he said.

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