Kerio: IT VARs Have The Right Stuff To Sell Voice In The Channel

Scott Schreiman, CEO of Kerio Technologies, thinks voice is just like any other IT product, and he wants the IT channel to feel the same way.

While may IT VARs may still be reluctant to sell voice services, Schreiman thinks it isn't just fear that keeps them away, it's something else, too.

’When you talk to IT VARs about telephony, there is not just fear and uncertainty, there is something deeper,’ Schreiman said. ’There is a fairly intense hatred of the telephony world.’

Schreiman thinks that animosity grew out of the AT&T monopoly and the closed, proprietary business practices that tend to persist in the telecom space, but Kerio Technologies wants to change that; it’s focusing its 100 percent channel-facing business on the IT VAR community.

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’As the LAN and WAN smash into each other, there’ll be a battle between who survives between the IT community and the telephony community. We believe completely that the IT VAR world is the right business model for servicing customers,’ Schreiman said.

Kerio’s sole voice offering, Operator, is less than a year old, but CRN recognized Kerio with a 2011 Tech Innovator Award for VoIP , for its enhanced SIP security features, auto-provisioning for common phones, and e-mail and voice mail integration.

’We want to take the phone system off the wall and put it in the rack. What differentiates Operator is how it’s similar to our other [IT] products,’ Schreiman said. ’If you’re a VAR that already knows how to configure and administer a firewall, setting up a phone system is just as easy, that’s the difference.’ In short, Operator’s user-friendly interface makes it a product VARs will feel comfortable selling, installing, and configuring.

Operator has features like call forwarding -- to desk phones, smartphones, or soft client phones -- password protection, multi-lingual auto-attendant, call routine monitoring, and ’plug and play’ compatibility with Cisco, Polycom, Linksys and Snom phone systems and is available as a software appliance or a hardware box.

Kerio Technologies is a global company, founded 15 years ago in the Czech Republic, later moving its headquarters to San Jose, Calif. According to Schreiman, Kerio drives around 96 percent of its business through the channel, doing just a small percentage of online sales. Kerio got started in security, and today has four core product offerings targeted for the SMB market: Kerio Control, a UTM and network intelligence firewall appliance; Kerio Connect, a cross-platform email product; Kerio Workspace, a document collaboration software; and Kerio Operator, its voice over IP platform.

Next: Voice Is Key

And as the convergence play between the IT and telecom worlds relentlessly moves forward, Schreiman said voice will be an essential component for VARs who want to remain competitive.

’I think every single IT VAR will be in the voice business five years from now,’ Schreiman said. ’It will be a significant part of their business and they need to make the investment to be part of that.’

Technolutionary is an IT and managed services VAR, and a Kerio preferred partner based in the Washinton, D.C. area that sees about 25 percent of its business coming from the telephony space -- offering network design, telephony and internet connectivity consulting, and partnering with carriers.

Technolutionary co-owner Tom Bridge said he’s seen significantly increased demand for VoIP products in the past year-and-a-half.

’We’ve seen more people willing to cut their ties with the legacy telephony world and saying, ’we don’t need those POP lines anymore, we can do this with SIP trunks, we can do this with voice over IP,’’ Bridge said. Bridge said that Kerio sets the ’gold standard’ as a vendor and channel leader, and their products are received extremely favorably by end-user clients.

’[Integrating a Kerio system] you look like you just did magic when you were doing something that was very technically complex. Any time you can leverage that environment and turn technology into magic for someone, that’s a huge win, that’s a big day, Bridge said. ’For us it’s just been about technology that just works.’

As end users grow more confident in voice over IP as a viable alternative, and with better tools and internet connections, Bridge thinks the demand for VoIP products like Kerio Operator will only increase. Bridge agrees that IT and telephony are no longer the separate worlds that they were 15 years ago.

’[Telephony] is something you have to learn, because someone who’s going to ask you about their computer is also going to ask you about their phone. Why? Because they’ve got an iPhone now. And that plugs into their computer and they link the two in their mind. They’re not separate spaces anymore,’ Bridge said.

’The more complicated features you need, the less likely it is that an old legacy phone system is going to be able to handle that. And when IP office systems from Avaya costs $30,000, but a Kerio Operator install can be done for a third of that, you have to pay attention.’