Dell Launches Nationwide Managed Services Initiative

The Round Rock, Texas-based vendor had been piloting the program in New York and Dallas but it's now available nationwide directly from Dell or through Dell's certified partners, according to Dell.

The services offering was developed through technology Dell acquired through Silverback Technologies and Everdream and includes a multilevel offering for companies as small as one PC, said Tim Griffin, vice president of global small and medium business services at Dell.

"We believe what we have represents a major inflection point for customers and our ability to add value to their environment," Griffin said. "This is intended to be different than the way competitors approach the market. You pay for what you need. You're not tied into long contracts and you're not allowing customers to be tied to technologies that are out of date. The time to deployment is a big issue for customers."

Dell is offering three levels of service: Alerts, Resolution and Management. Alerts includes 24x7 remote monitoring and alerts.

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Resolution includes remote issue resolution for all monitored hardware, applications and services.

Management includes end-user support, increased security functions, asset tracking and assessment services.

The monthly cost for the Alert level is $9 per client (desktop or notebook), $29 per network device and $59 per server. For Resolution service, it's $39 per client, $89 per networking device and $199 per server. Management-level service is $59 per client, $119 per network device and $299 per server.

Dell currently has more than 200 certified managed service providers globally, but hopes to increase that number exponentially now that its long-awaited managed services program is available in general release. "We have 40,000 registered partners globally. Our intent is for as many of those to sign up to sell that for us," Griffin said.

Dell's managed services will be subject to many of the same terms and conditions as hardware sold through its PartnerDirect program, including deal registration and support, Griffin said.

The service offerings are available to channel partners via a software platform that MSPs can integrate into their own offerings or through a sales-agent model in which Dell delivers the services on behalf of the partner, Griffin said.

"You can provide us with the lead to the customer and we can provide the service end to end, but it's never going to replace you, the collaboration, the partnership that the [end user] has with you. You still have the front-end partnership. Our intent is to enable you, rather than replace you," he said. "In terms of security to our partners, certified partners are able to register deals to avoid channel conflict. Rather than feeling that we may steal your lunch, judge us on what we've been able to do to date [in PartnerDirect]."

With the economy struggling, Dell hopes that small businesses will look to Dell's offerings to help them cut costs and streamline their IT needs.

"Cash flow is tight, access to capital is tight. It's hard to get new IT but you can't have IT ignored. For every dollar a small business spends on IT, another two dollars is spent on managing it," said Jim Skelding, director of small and medium business sales at Dell. "Uptime is king. They can't have this infrastructure go down. Turning [IT management] over to Dell or a partner allows us to take over 70 percent of keeping the lights on. Then we can focus on reducing overhead and taking care of customers."

At a press conference in New York, Dell introduced two businesses that piloted the program in New York and Dallas.

Aron Fogiel, founder and owner of Hofbrau Steaks Restaurants/HB Meats, Irving, Texas, said his business has suffered the last few years after he lost his full-time IT person and went through a slew of other providers that were more harm then help. The IT system that serves his meat company and several networks has run more smoothly since Dell took over its management, he said.

"The first month, we spent a lot of time resolving issues from years past. Now we've had more time to be productive than worry about the downtime," he said. "We still have issues, but when they do come up, I find out before I come into the office. And if we can't get it fixed ahead of time, at least we can work around it."

Tom Peters, IT manager at Salesian Missions, a New York-based nonprofit, turned to Dell after another MSP couldn't provide 24-hour support, he said.

"If something happened over the weekend, we didn't know about it," he said. "We had good experience with Dell's hardware support in the past and we happily are getting that [with managed services]," Peters said. "One problem we had was an Active Directory sync between two locations. That was resolved remotely. Otherwise I would have had to take a trip to Virginia."

Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB and home office research at IDC, said many small businesses still are reluctant to move toward a managed model for security reasons, but that should change over time. According to an IDC study, 52.8 percent of small businesses cited data security as a concern that could discourage use of a Software-as-a-Service model.

"The real challenge is education. We talk about a revolutionary approach, that it has to be a religious conversion. That's not what small business owners want. It has to be gradual, which sets the stage for major transformation," he said.

But small businesses are looking for new ways to get value out of IT and might be open more to managed services than in the past, said Laurie McCabe, a partner at research firm Hurwitz & Associates.

"SMB has always been pretty pinched when it comes to IT. They've been laggard in tech adoption. But as we've absorbed the initial shock and awe of the economic fallout, companies are saying, 'Now what?' Uncertainty is the new model," McCabe said. "They want a faster return on IT. They want to reduce the risk of business vulnerability. It is a little scary for some of them. They're looking for a lot of reassurance that they will not be increasing their risk, but reducing it."