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CompuNet now has a signed agreement with Xerox, which will deliver a variety of those needs, according to CompuNet's Pruett.
"It's about economies of scale," he said. "We can still have that relationship with the customer, and provide them with the comfort of knowing that we are still here and they can pick up the phone and call us. But, Xerox is bringing the billing infrastructure, the monitoring, the upgrades, the hosting and the provisioning of all the back-end components for their solutions."
CompuNet will be paid a monthly percentage, according to Pruett. But, the issue of branding is still "somewhat up in the air," he said.
"We're trying to figure out whether to leverage their brand or white label it," he said. "There are pros and cons to either strategy. But, we are likely to pursue an approach that enables us to keep our name front and center [while] at the same time leveraging the strength of their brand, which I think will give customers a sense of comfort because they will know that we are not white labeling from some small Podunk company that is just kind of making a run at this."
CompuNet's experience on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho, seems to run parallel to other small-market channel partners, as well.
Ross Toole, of Applied Microsystems, brings technology services to customers in Anchorage, Alaska. His company started out as a traditional data center integrator that migrated toward managed cloud services several years ago due to the high costs of managing a traditional IT infrastructure in Alaska.
"Customers simply could not afford to do their own IT, given the high cost of connectivity and staff," he said. "So we started to offer services, starting with storage and backup and those kinds of things. We then found ourselves writing [vertical] applications that we hosted. We ended up with a portfolio of applications and then we developed software to implement and integrate those applications and started to do more traditional managed services for smaller companies, and eventually built our own platform."
But, Toole disagrees with the use of other companies' brands, like what CompuNet is considering.
"White labeling is the only model that I would even consider unless the product has so much pull in the marketplace that users basically need to have it," he said. "If it's anything less than that, you're just promoting somebody else's brand. If your relationship is good, you might be able to keep the customers, but what happens if your contract is canceled? You don't own the customer, and you're done. You have to have your own brand."
Toole added that the sale of cloud and managed services is becoming easier, from a customer interface point of view.
"In the beginning, we were very much preaching to a perplexed audience," he said. The concept of the cloud now is a lot more accepted and understood in the general public. The barrier of entry into the discussion is a lot lower than it once was. That doesn't mean it is easy to cold call, but it's not about selling something that's completely foreign to them anymore. You just have to find a way to differentiate yourself. If you don't differentiate yourself, it is a race to the bottom."