Staples Enters IT Services Market with SMB Offering

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As I wrote back in May, remote IT monitoring and management makes a lot of sense for SMBs, since it offers them access to the types of services that would likely be provided by a full-time IT staff -- something that many SMBs lack.


It's such a large and obvious market that it's offered by retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City, in addition to the likes of HP and IBM. Now another retail chain, Staples, is entering the mix, reports internetnews.com. The company is finally leveraging the expertise it gained when it bought a small services provider called Thrive last year.


Called Staples Network Services by Thrive, the new services offering includes security (including patch management, anti-spam and anti-virus), data protection and backup and a "dedicated" team to attend to on-site support tasks.


Jim Lippie, the Staples executive heading up the program, says the company distinguishes itself from other retail competitors by offering "a monthly recurring client relationship, in which we partner with our clients to make them more productive," rather than assistance with one-off repairs and short-term projects.


The cost for all three services is about $20 per PC. SMBs can purchase Thrive Protect (security) and Thrive Online Backup (data protection) separately, with pricing beginning at $10 per 10GB for online backup, according to internetnews.com.


Analysts interviewed in the article offer mixed opinions of the offering. Mike Karp of Enterprise Management Associates says Staples bundles the services in a "coherent and integrated" way that he thinks may help SMBs develop "a strategic approach to outsourcing." Yet SMBs may not feel comfortable entrusting their data to Staples because the retailer is "a relative unknown in the IT space," says Joseph Martins of Data Mobility Group.


While purchasing such services does make sense for many SMBs, they don't necessarily see it that way. As Merle Sandler, research manager for SMB and Home Office Programs at IDC, said in an April interview with IT Business Edge:

Small firms like buying something, then beating the living daylights out of it. If you look around, I'm sure you'll find some dot-matrix printers and PCs with Windows 3.5 on them. ... But when it comes to services, to actually contract with someone who's going to be doing it, if it's a fixed amount of money going out every month, they're reluctant to do it, even though they don't have the expertise in-house.