Staples Goes Live With Thrive Network, Online Backup Services

Under its Thrive umbrella, Staples is targeting small and mid-sized companies and offering solutions that help them make the right IT decisions while lightening the load on SMB's already limited IT staffs.

"Staples is dipping its toe into the water in the IT services space," said Candy Murphy, vice president of Staples' Contract Technology Solutions.

Staples Network Services by Thrive is a multi-faceted services offering comprising three separate services: Thrive Protect, Thrive Onsite and Thrive Online Backup.

First up is Thrive Protect, which includes anti-spam service, anti-virus protection, anti-spyware technology, patch management, systems and network monitoring, remote support and cross platform and open source support for Windows, MacOS X and MacOS X Server, and Linux solutions.

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Thrive Onsite extends the Thrive Protect service and offers companies their own dedicated team of IT engineers who regularly work on-site to perform services that cannot be done remotely and to offer in-person support to end-users. Thrive Onsite will first be available in the Boston and Atlanta areas, with other major metropolitan areas to follow.

Lastly, Staples also launched Thrive Online Backup, an enterprise-class data protection service for the SMB that enables companies to backup systems, applications and data to a secure remote facility. The backup is performed automatically and in real time to protect against data loss that can result from hard drive crashes, accidental deletion, natural disasters, theft and vandalism.

"In today's business environment, organizations have to be prepared for all sorts of disasters -- both natural and man-made -- and can't afford to fall victim to downtime," Murphy said.

"Companies may think they're protecting themselves by backing up to tape, but studies have shown that more than a third of companies never test their backups, and of those that do, more than three quarters have found tapes that fail to restore properly. Without a proven data protection plan, they're simply taking an unacceptable risk. By offering a solution like Thrive Online Backup, we're putting enterprise-level protection within reach of any organization."

Thrive Online Backup works automatically and copies data from PCs and servers over an encrypted Web connection. Data is available for recovery 24/7 and only new and changed data is copied to ensure it won't gobble up bandwidth.

According to Jim Lippie, president of Staples Network Services by Thrive, Thrive Online Backup is offered for $10 per desktop per month with no additional fees for storing or recovering data, while the other Staples Network Services can go as low as $20 per user per month.

Lippie said with Staples line of services offering, it became a natural progression to offer online backup.

"We're monitoring and maintaining the entire makes sense for us to manage the data," he said.

Murphy said the offerings stemmed from small businesses needing help making IT and business decisions, while also receiving 24-hour support in the case of an incident. Staples customers have the networking gear onsite and Staples manages the environment.

The goal is to offer the Thrive services nationally, Murphy said. The offerings were the result of Staples' late 2006 acquisition of Thrive Networks, a Boston-area solution provider that services a large portion of eastern Massachusetts.

Currently, the Staples team is working on a three- to five-year plan to determine how best to broaden its coverage throughout the nation.

"The IT industry is highly fragmented," Murphy said, adding that Staples is using the reputation and brand it built up in retail to offer SMBs IT services from a trusted source. "It brings the trust and the reliability of the brand name," she said.

Lippie said Staples wants to offer end-users an "intimate experience" though a high-touch model, catering mostly to companies that have 250 or fewer employees, with the sweet spot being in the 50 to 100 employee range.

"We bring a level of expertise and we've learned how the small business works," he said. "There's a real thirst for small businesses to have a larger provider while having the security, but high-touch of a smaller company"

Plus, Lippie said, most SMBs have small staffs that can't handle all of the curveballs their IT environment throws.

"They want us to take ownership of all the headaches, mysteries, and risk associated with maintaining a company's IT infrastructure, and make it so they never have to think about them again," Lippie said. "In a nutshell, they want us to make their IT problems go away, and that's exactly what we do."