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Staples jumps into managed services

Staples is now selling managed services, but the company shouldn't pose a threat to most managed service providers.

Staples is getting into the managed services business.

The office supply retail giant has launched Staples Network Services by Thrive, a series of managed services for small businesses. Staples will sell the managed services direct to customers.

"We want to provide as much to the small business customer as possible, and IT services is certainly a need that all small businesses have," said Jim Lippie, president of Staples Network Services by Thrive.

Staples, based in Framingham, Mass., has around 1,800 stores in the United States and Canada and works with 40,000 new small business customers every year, Lippie said. Companies with 20 to 250 employees are the target audience for Staples' managed services, he said.

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Several other large retailers, including Best Buy and Circuit City, also offer managed services. But Staples is different because it already has a built-in base of business customers, said Charles Weaver, president of the MSPAlliance, the International Association of Managed Service Providers.

"Managed services for the consumer is really a night-and-day difference," he said.

Staples Network Services by Thrive includes three managed services offerings: Thrive Protect, Thrive Onsite and Thrive Online Backup. Thrive Protect offers network monitoring, patch management, antivirus, antispyware and other services. Thrive Onsite gives customers their own IT engineers, who provide in-person support. And Thrive Online Backup stores customers' data and applications using EMC Mozy Enterprise.

Weaver said Staples' managed services won't be competition for traditional, long-standing MSPs, because the company will be selling commoditized services -- not high-level consulting, like architecting IT usage policies.

"That's just not something that they will be well-equipped to do," he said.

Staples' managed services will also draw more attention to the managed services market as a whole, which is a good thing for established MSPs, Weaver added.

"They will serve an important role in promoting the concept of managed services," he said.

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