Compaq has formed a partnership with an IT outsourcing company that will give it immediate access to small and medium-sized businesses.

Quartet Service Corp. Wednesday said it has signed a three-year agreement to exclusively use and sell Compaq equipment. The company, which is based in Toronto but also operates in New York and Dallas, is a three-year-old provider of IT and telecommunications services to companies that range in size from 20 to 1,000 employees. Its model has been to go into office buildings as a group that are considered “service delivery points”which can be managed through a centrallized infrastructure . The Compaq products will be primarily used to set up basic services like file, print and Internet access. The products are complemented by on-site voice and data staff for whom Quartet has trademarked the term “InfoConcierge,” who add a personal touch to its services.

“The magic in it is if we put desktop support for all thep eople in buildings, there is strong bond set up between outsourcer and a company that usually wouldn’t normally consider outsourcing,” said Gabby Herczeg, Quartet’s CIO.

Herczeg said in spite of the Compaq deal Quartet remains hardware-agnostic. Customers can still use other hardware, but they will have to look to another outsourcer to obtain it.

“We did not want to be a VAR,” he said. “We will make margin out of it, but this is not intended as a primary revenue source for us.”

Instead, Herczeg said the agreement allows Quartet to offer benefits to its customers like leasing through Compaq’s Financial Services group. Quartet has standardized internally on Compaq servers since it was launched, he added, and the agreement allows them to reaffirm its commitment to the vendor.

Compaq spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.

Quartet has already managed to establish a number of small business clusters in major urban centres. These include a group of seven buildings in the Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. area of Toronto as well as four buildings on Wall Street in New York. Though each cluster requires additional staff — the company promises contact with the InfoConcierges twice a day — Herczeg said Quartet isn’t struggling with a skills shortage.

“We don’t have the difficulty in finding people,” he said. “Our technicians are not software development people. We have a centralized, high-end workforce who does the complex server builds and centalized management. Actually getting someone to teach them how to format columns in Word doesn’t require rocket science.”

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