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Staples to battle VARs on their own turf; other news

Staples launches B2B "VAR" effort; more headlines.

IT channel news in brief for Feb. 16, 2010

Staples launches B2B "VAR" effort

Staples, the office supplies giant, is diving deeper into the IT services pool with the formation of Staples Technology Solutions.

The goal is to provide a single place to shop for IT and office gear and even IT services.

The group evolves out of Staples Inc.'s acquisition of Thrive Networks, a networking services provider in late 2007 and Corporate Express in June 2008. Thrive gave Staples a toehold in managed services while Corporate Express sold computer graphics and imaging supplies.

So a company that may have once sourced copiers and paper from Staples can now turn to it for data center assessments and even outsourced IT management.

The resulting Staples Technology Solutions is a "one-stop shop for office products as well as technology supplies and services. It can provide servers and maintain printer fleets," said Joe Kalinoski, vice president of finance for Staples Technology Solutions.

The group will focus on a handful of key areas, said Kalinoski, including data center solutions where it will offer hardware ranging from servers and desktops to monitors; printer management services, including bundled services; and data center gear, including cabinets, power supplies, heating and cooling and products associated with managing all of that.

Also on the docket: mice, keyboards, shredders, printers and monitors.

All of the aforementioned products and services will be available to customer segments ranging from small businesses to Fortune 1,000 companies. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with 10 to 250 employees, Staples will also offer managed IT services for companies without internal IT departments. The services can also augment small, over-stretched IT staffs.

Should Staples execute on its plan, its managed services would compete directly with many offered by smaller VARs, a fact that Staples execs were not shy about.

"VARs envy our position. We can sell the product and have relationships in place to sell competitively, but at the same time we have years of service experience and hundreds of clients," said Thad Coming, regional sales director for Staples Technology Solutions.

In some instances, Staples and a local VAR might coexist in an account. "If there's an organization of, say, 75 people, that runs Great Plains as its financial software, they'll have a relationship with the organization that sold Great Plains, which would probably maintain ongoing maintenance. In that case, we would act as their outsourced IT department and interact with the VAR for the client," Coming said.

Ninety Staples employees in Lawrence, Mass., run the company's SMB network services. cuts partners in on hosted white-box ERP is making its hosted ERP services available to partners that want to self-label it and get a piece of the ongoing revenue.

Qualified VARs can plug into the system, brand their version of the offering and start selling ERP as a service within weeks, the company said.

Check out last week's IT channel news in brief.

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