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Coronavirus Strains IT Supply Chain: ‘We’re Down To Buying Computers From Costco’

‘You can’t get a notebook or a desktop right now. You can’t get a webcam. It’s insane,’ says Benjamin Niernberg, executive vice president at MNJ Technologies, an Buffalo Grove, Ill.,-based MSP.

Solution providers are hitting up their local retail outlets to meet customer demands for work-from-home hardware as the nation’s labor force moved -- almost overnight -- to working remotely, many told CRN.

“We’re down to buying computers from Costco,” said Mark Essayian, president KME Systems Inc., a Lake Forest, Calif.-based MSP. “A customer called me in a panic on Friday, saying ‘I have to have my accounting people work from home.’ He was at Best Buy … he couldn’t find anything. We found a couple at Costco and I put them on my card. And said, here it is, and we had them delivered today.”

Benjamin Niernberg, executive vice president at MNJ Technologies an Buffalo Grove, Ill.,-based MSP said laptops, desktops, webcams, as well as licenses for WebX and multi-factor authentication products are in high demand and workers shift to the home office.

“If you’ve ever been in a virtual auction where you’re waiting for it to update to see if you need to rebid, its kind of like that,” he said. “You’re waiting for inventory to come in and in constant contact, calling distribution, finding out what they have and where they have it. Our purchasing group is working double time to find the product necessary to meet the demands of the customers.”

MNJ also has an in-house imaging team that has been working around the clock to image and asset tag the devices before they are shipped out. In the midst of that, Niernberg said one customer placed a massive order.

“We’re not shopping retail yet, but I get it,” he said. “I just had a company order 1,600 laptops. It’s not like I’m looking for one or two here. I’m looking for big orders ... Unfortunately, we’re at the beck and call of the OEMs. So our purchasing team is monitoring distribution and OEMs like a hawk, and anytime we see a run on something, we’re buying it. So we can get the inventory for the customer base,” he said.

Allen Falcon, founder and CEO of Cumulus Global, a born-in-the-cloud Google and Microsoft solution provider based in Westborough, Mass., said the coronavirus supply chain crises has put “huge delivery delays” on Chromebooks.

“We are seeing right now on the most common Chromebook models a current backlog of almost 70 days which means if you order a Chromebook today the earliest you would get it would be June,” he said. “If schools are not moving quickly to order now, there is a good chance they will have trouble getting devices in time for September.”

Cumulus Global has advised all of its school system customers to order Chromebooks before the end of March for the coming school year, said Falcon.

Cumulus Global is also working proactively with customers to use existing technology that is free like Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts Meet for work-at-home scenarios or low cost, easy to implement cloud file sharing like CentreStack’s virtual cloud services in the wake of the coronavirus crises, said Falcon.

“The economic fallout is very scary for the small businesses that we serve,” he said. “I think you are going to see a lot of small businesses curtailing spending on outside resources. We have got to be ready for that and be able to prove our value to our customers during this difficult time.”

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