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Cloud Transforms PC Management

By Frank J. Ohlhorst
June 09, 2011 - Article

Managing desktop PCs was once the bread and butter for a typical solution provider. Break-fix services, help desk, service calls and upgrades were guaranteed revenue streams. The opportunity evolved over time to include remote control and management, or “virtual support." And, now, as with countless other IT services, the cloud stands to change PC management yet again, altering how solution providers interact with their customers, derive their profits and build long-term relationships. In some ways PC management is illustrative of the change wrought by the cloud on the IT channel.

In the past, a solution provider would set up a support contract, assign a technician to support a business’s desktop assets and schedule regular service calls, as well as provide onsite support. That approach proved to be effective and profitable for solution providers serving small and medium businesses. For large enterprises, solution providers would often sell and install PC support and asset management applications, then train an enterprise’s IT staff how to use those applications, deriving profit from the sale of the application and training services.

Today, the cloud has made those revenue and support models obsolete and has blurred the distinction between small, medium and large businesses. Solution providers find themselves driven towards hosted platforms or competing directly against large vendors — all because traditional PC management has moved into the cloud.

The cloud’s dominance doesn’t stop there; other traditional solution provider services, ranging from VoIP/PBX services to applications to network services, are also affected. All have been reborn in the cloud as platforms or layers of a platform.

The evolution of the cloud and the trend to move more and more IT resources into the cloud is not slowing down, which drives solution providers to find ways to leverage the cloud or perish. The silver lining to the cloud trend is that many vendors are making their hosted services and management platforms available to the channel, where partners can rebrand and resell those services for ongoing revenue. Furthermore, traditional software vendors are starting to embrace the cloud and offer their applications as hosted services, bringing their channel partners along with them for the ride.

The evolution in PC management also illustrates this shift.  A case in point is IT management software company ManageEngine, which recently launched its Desktop Central MSP product, which falls under the umbrella, MSP Center Lite. Solution providers can find network monitoring, server monitoring, remote control, asset management and many other capabilities integrated into the MSP Center Lite platform, which they can offer a la carte or as a package to their customers. The need for hands-on services and onsite technicians is greatly reduced; MSP Center Lite requires little more than an agent to be remotely installed on each IT asset. That lowers deployment costs and reduces a solution provider’s overhead.

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