High maintenance at a lower cost

28 Jun 2005

Despite the fact IT is supposed to make all our lives easier and less complicated, the technologies and platforms deployed in your average SME today are getting even more complex. Not every SME can afford to employ a dedicated IT person but yet they all want the latest in terms of desktop power, good networking, broadband and security to rival Fort Knox.

This trend is resulting in a new scramble for business in the IT world whereby SMEs that want the latest technologies also want fewer headaches and ultimately lower costs. A new scramble for maintenance and support also ensures opportunities for further sales of IT services down the road.

Last week Eircom entered the SME support fray with the launch of its Eircom Total ICT service, leveraging its partner base, which includes Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Microsoft to provide a single point of contact for SMEs’ needs ranging from helpdesk support to peripheral purchases and network design, implementation and management. The service provides a specialist consultant assessment of SMEs’ overall ICT needs, qualified engineers will install and show customers how everything works, data security assessments will be carried out and remote assistance will be provided through telephone support from a designated service centre.

According to Alan Morrissey, head of Eircom Total ICT, Eircom has amassed a strong history and track record in deploying fully managed IT solutions to businesses of all sizes. He explains: “Most SMEs don’t have an IT manager but usually an informal network of advisors. There is no shortage of resellers out there but finding a trusted supplier to support the business if anything goes wrong is difficult. Effectively we are aiming to be like the virtual IT manager, able to pinpoint a problem before the customer realises there’s a problem.”

Another example of this growing paradigm is the deal signed between traditional Irish technology reseller Comsys and IBM Global Services, which gives Comsys access to more than 200 dedicated engineers nationwide and enables the company to co-ordinate hardware and software support options for its SME and blue-chip client base.

Comsys managing director Ben McGahon explains the company’s strategy. “In the Eighties we were pushing hardware to the business world, by the Nineties we were looking to add value. In this decade the major buying decisions are being influenced by maintenance and support options. It is very important to provide multi-vendor support because that is exactly what the business world wants.

“The more an IT manager has the ability to shop around, the more satisfactory it is for them. IT environments are becoming increasingly multi-platform. In recent months you are seeing trends in the marketplace, such as HP’s decision to buy Synstar. However, going forward, if you want to excel in managed services, you need to be able to maintain more than one vendor’s product,” McGahon says.

McGahon says much of the drive towards multi-platform IT infrastructure is being driven by the need by businesses to keep their costs low and have room to manoeuvre in their buying choices. “Businesses are striving to stretch their IT budgets. €100k being spent today is going a lot further than before the technology bubble burst in 2001.”

Pictured launching Eircom’s new product, Total ICT, were its head Alan Morrissey and Niall Feely, director of Eircom business markets

By John Kennedy