Vertical Realignment: From Reseller To MSP

Founded in 1991 as a hardware reseller for Data General products, Park Place International, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, does more than 90 percent of its business with midmarket customers. Richard Corwon, account executive, and Richard Sherman, director of marketing, recently spoke with Features Writer Jennifer Lawinski about how they have remained successful by transitioning from hardware reseller to services provider working in the heaLth-care vertical market, specifically with Meditech software, Westwood, Mass., and Massena Memorial Hospital, Massena, N.Y.

CRN: How has Park Place International changed over the years to keep up with the market and remain profitable?

RICHARD SHERMAN: There was a definite need as we progressed through the '90s to start moving into a service business. What really catapulted us toward that was in 1999, EMC purchased Data General, so all of a sudden all of the hardware we were reselling was taken away from us. It forced Park Place to [become] a service technology provider. Our core business right now is providing hardware maintenance and software maintenance contracts on enterprise-level equipment.

The other part of our business is in the health-care vertical. We have a niche with working on Meditech [health-care management] software because in the old days they used the Data General platform in the hospitals.

CRN: How does Park Place work with its midmarket health-care customers?

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SHERMAN: We go after maintenance contracts at hospitals running [Meditech] software, and we go for the system refreshes to upgrade that customer to an IBM platform. Being in the health-care vertical is where we began partnering with Perimeter Internetworking on the network security side. It's another product offering—partnering with the top people in the field—that we can offer because we're into the health-care information system and the software and the hospital.

CRN: What did Park Place do for Massena Memorial Hospital?

RICHARD CORWON: Our purpose with any customer is to start with the maintenance.

What we initially did for them is we signed them up as a maintenance customer for their old hardware, their Meditech servers and storage environment.

Massena is in a very rural area in northern New York, and there are not a lot of service providers who can get to them. The position we take is strictly for the hardware. If they have a disk drive fail, we're there to fix it with both labor on-site as well as the parts.

The next thing we did is we assisted them with an Active Directory upgrade and a [Microsoft] Exchange migration project. We put in new networking equipment, servers and storage, and we gave them more contemporary Exchange services for the hospital.

Products from Perimeter Internetworking were part of the third phase. The solution we provided there was antivirus, antispam and a mail-safe solution. There's a large selection that Perimeter offers, and those are the three that Massena started with. We have a long-term agreement in place for network support, and that will continue for as long as the hospital needs it.

CRN: What makes the health-care vertical a good fit for Park Place's expertise?

CORWON: The big advantage is that we are the only provider in the Meditech space that has the ability to do both maintenance and support for the hardware that's out there. We can support old equipment, and we can do new equipment. We do it with our own people so we save the customer money.

We have field service engineers across the country with the parts that are needed in their regions. If something breaks in that enterprise system, our people are dispatched and are there with the replacement parts within a four-hour window.

These enterprise systems are running critical applications for our customers. They cannot afford to be down. Everything is computer-driven. As soon as the computer goes, or a server or storage goes down, everybody starts to panic, and you need that [problem] fixed.

CRN: What challenges did Park Place face working with Massena Memorial Hospital?

CORWON: Sometimes [our customers aren't] in cosmopolitan areas—they're more rural. A lot of the hospitals are in a rural location, so we're focusing on being able to support those customers. You deal with budgets like every small or medium business has to deal with, but [the midmarket] is where we belong.

I would say the solution that we put in place brought [Massena] to a very contemporary solution that was all-inclusive. They didn't have to find ways to administer five different support contracts from different vendors. They're now able to tie that all into one location. In a big-picture sense, that's what really attracted the customer to this solution.