No one has ever accused major IT vendors of being role models. Microsoft gets the most public heat, but it’s far from the most loathed, or most unethical, in the business. Resellers, whose reward for having built a thriving market for some new product is to have the largest customers stolen by a direct-sales force more interested in bonuses than either the reputation or long-term growth of the products they sell.
Every once in a while someone pulls a real doozy, though; the kind of diabolity you’d never believe of an otherwise respectable company. Something so contemptible you’re sure the story has to have been exaggerated by a competitor. No one in their right mind would have done something like that, right?
This is one of those times. HP, driven to paranoid mania by a perfectly ordinary story revealing that the company’s top execs had sneaked off to a posh resort to put together a strategy outline for the next 18 months. From a reporting perspective it was a fine story; from a business perspective, the strategy itself is a yawner.
But HP chair Patricia Dunn got so ticked off she launched an investigation, against the advice of HP’s corporate governance guru, that eventually let to an HP contractor hacking into the private phone records of both board members and at least one reporter involved in the story.
It seems fairly obvious that vendors use security alerts to promote themselves and devalue their competitors, as addressed in this CRN article. And I imagine many channel folks can relate to the challenges that result, i.e. defending vendor products to their customers, separating the security alert wheat from the chaff and relating that info to their customers. But how you handle this challenge? I’d like your input. How do you manage security alerts? What is your process for analyzing them and communicating with your customers? Post your comments here or email me directy. Perhaps we can come up with some best practices.
Technology is not a regulatory compliance cure-all, but it does play an important role in compliance efforts. Technology enables the automation of processes that can otherwise cost companies time and money, as reported by SearchSMB.com:
In fact, according to a new survey of 132 finance and technology executives by compliance software vendor ControlPath Inc., 74% said their companies use mostly manual processes, such as spreadsheets and Microsoft Word documents, to comply with government regulations. Even more grim: 70% admitted they had multiple projects in place for each regulation, even though it’s redundant. Only 25% say they’re automated.
Companies are wasting valuable resources and, what’s worse, their efforts may not pass auditors’ scrutiny the next time around. As auditors become more seasoned with SOX, HIPAA, etc., their expectations for compliance will evolve. They’ll expect to see more reliable controls, and better integration between business and technical controls. Sooner or later, an Excel doc isn’t going to make the grade.
When I hear technology media and PR folks discuss the Avian flu and disaster recovery, I chalk it up to FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) tactics. However, the findings of a survey conducted by Forsythe Solutions Group points to a larger issue. Of the more than 75 senior IT and business continuity pros at Fortune 1,000 and other major US companies surveyed, only 35% are prepared to deploy more than 10% of their workforce remotely. Obviously, this would be a problem in the case of a national health crisis. But a severe natural disaster could also make telecommuting a necessity. And while we as a nation (fortunately) have not recently witnessed a pandemic event, we have seen what a terrorist attack and natural disasters can do to our businesses. So chalk the Avian flu up to one — of many — reasons companies still need to implement a disaster recovery plan.
Intel will release another 10,500 employees into the wild as it attempts to reinvent itself. But the bloodletting in itself isn’t going to change the fundamental problems Intel faces: an inventory glut of processors that haven’t moved, stiff competition from AMD, and its new sidelines (like the poorly-branded Viiv consumer chipset line) have yet to really do anything for Intel’s bottom line.
And it’s not really clear what the impact of these cuts on the channel will be. About 5,000 of the people affected by the announcement are already gone, and it’s not clear where the other 5,500 are coming from. Its sale of its communications processors to Marvell doesn’t really directly affect resellers, and an earlier layoff of 1,000 managers in an effort to address “slow and inefficient decision-making” (announced in July) is still working itself out.
According to a Yankee Group report, the range of sales channels into the SMB is wide for wireless voice. Factors such as the size of the company and service/device ownership (employee vs. employer) determines whether an SMB purchases directly from a vendor, non-company owned stores or the indirect channel (VARs, consultants). But the bottom line is, all SMBs prefer to have their wireless voice bundled with their telephony and Internet services on one bill. In the U.S., mobile providers operate separately from traditional phone companies. This article outlines other ways the channel can support the majority of SMBs.
VoIP is often touted for its benefits to SMBs, but a SearchNetworking.com article reports that enterprises are also showing interest:
According to Yankee Group, more than 50% of enterprise respondents in a recent survey called “The Hosted Opportunity” said they believe a hosted VoIP environment would meet their needs in the areas of lower capital costs, remote access, multi-site networks, technology refresh and scalability. Slightly less (more than 40%) weighed in with security, lower cost of refresh, control and manageability as reasons that a hosted solution better meets their needs.
This bodes well for the channel, especially as customers big and small recognize how outsourced VoIP can be customized to fit their specific needs and the role it can play in disaster recovery. The article goes on to describe how Verizon Business equipped two customers whose telephony needs were met by VoIP’s flexibility and simplicity.
As Sean mentioned in his introductory post, the editors behind Channel Marker are preparing to launch a set of Web sites to meet the information needs of the technical folks who implement and support technical solutions as a service. I’m spearheading our efforts in the networking and security spaces. After nearly six years editing TechTarget’s SearchSecurity.com, I’m happy to expand my knowledge of the security industry by focusing on the channel and to take on a new subject area – networking. But enough about me. I want to hear from you.
I’ve been meeting with potential contributors and readers to find out what issues we should be covering in the networking and security spaces. So far, integrating heterogeneous network and security devices, security event monitoring for regulatory compliance and aligning IT infrastructure to business strategy, top the list. I’d also like your two cents. What common problems are you helping your customers solve? What challenges do you face in doing so? Feel free to comment here or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
— Crystal Ferraro, Editor, SearchSecurityChannel.com and SearchNetworkingChannel.com
The NY Times reports that Radio Shack has laid off 400 employees, and notified them by e-mail. The electronics retailer (and HP and Sprint/Nextel retail channel partner) cut the jobs mostly from its headquarters staff; it has also closed close to 500 stores has consolidated its distribution centers and product lines.
Aside from the HR faux pas, Radio Shack has been relatively savvy about how it uses technology to drive the company. But the company is suffering for the same reason that many small VARs are suffering–what was once a business that thrived on upgrades and tweaks and personalization has become a commodity business that is increasingly dominated by big box retailers and manufacturer direct sales.
Radio Shack’s move toward sales in stores based on a more broad appeal may have made sense a few years ago, but based on personal experience, I’m betting that it’s cut down on their retail foot traffic. In the past year, I’ve stopped going into stores because they no longer carry the kinds of cables, adaptors and other techie niche products that used to pull their core audience in–which in the past they had successfully converted into larger sales. All that specialty stuff is online now — which doesn’t help them any, because the whole reason Radio Shack got my business in the past was convenience (their ubiquity meant I could find one close by) and instant gratification (I could always get it cheaper someplace else, but I’d have to wait).
In other words, Radio Shack has picked the wrong customers to focus on, and the wrong way to interact with its best customers. Strikes one and two. How good are you at identifying your most potentially profitable customers, and making yourself indispensable to them?
Realizing that (a) delays in Vista have dampened revenues, (b) customers probably won’t widely adopt Vista for business use until at least Service Pack 1 (or maybe SP 2), and (c) there was increasingly large potential for mass attrition among some trailing-edge customers from the Microsoft brand to one of those free operating systems that run well on legacy hardware if they didn’t do something, Microsoft has extended its Custom Support Agreement program to provide for at continued support of Windows NT (paid) support for large customers. The same is true of Exchange Server 5.5, and Windows XP Service Pack 1, which were both due to be dropped from support shortly.
The long life of Windows NT in some particularly conservative markets has certainly surprised (and probably distressed) Microsoft, which attempted to pull all life support for NT a few years ago but extended the lifecycle of Windows NT due to popular outrage/demand in 2002. That extension was supposed to end at the conclusion of this year.
But now, laggards with applications that absolutely require Windows NT 4.0, XP SP1, and Exchange 5.5 will be able to pay for continued patches and technical support from Microsoft — at a sharply increased price, as support pricing is shifted to a per-device basis. As a result, the ROI calculators of many customers still stuck in the 90’s may become a little more upgrade-friendly. But Microsoft is “all about customer choice”…