Staples gunning for SMB IT services market

Staples is entering the IT services market with the introduction of three new services offerings, which target small to medium-sized businesses.

In 2006, Staples acquired Thrive, an IT services company, which is why the new services are branded under the Staples Network Services by Thrive name. The offerings include, Thrive Protect, Thrive Onsite and Thrive Online Backup.

Manage services and SMB hardware is considered by analysts as a growth industry.

Jim Lippie, president of Staples Network Services by Thrive, said Staples got into the services business because small businesses today want and require an IT service offering that will give them access to a range of IT services, at affordable prices.

The services target SMBs that have anywhere between 10 to 250 employees. Of the three service offerings, he says only one is currently available in Canada.

“Thrive Online Backup is offered throughout Canada,” he said. “Thrive Online Backup is completely automated, so it’s easier to scale right now. The other services will be also be available in Canada, but that’s still to be determined as to when.”

Easy to use, automated tools are vital to an SMB’s operation, according to Lori Ross, vice-president of marketing for Staples.

“Small business operators are experts in their field, but there are many areas of running a business their business that they need to turn to someone else,” she said.

Because many SMB operators lack the time and resources to train employees, hosted services are often an ideal and inexpensive solution.

“The idea is to free up the worker so that they can engage in more value-added line of business task,” Ross said.

Lippie said EMC is a partner on the backend for Thrive Online Backup since its Mozy platform is utilized for the service. With that, SMBs receive enterprise-class data protection capabilities, all in an online, e-mail based service, which is calculated on a per device, monthly basis.

“We e-mail a link so the user can send information to us and we then backup everything in real-time on their laptop or desktop,” Lippie said. “It’s only [US]$10 a month for the service and for every 10 gigs, it’s another $10. We do offer unlimited storage as well.”

For Thrive Protect, users receive security capabilities such as anti-spam, anti-virus protection, remote support and system and network monitoring, and more. For services that can not be done remotely, Thrive Onsite offers businesses their own dedicated team of IT engineers who will provide in-person support at the workplace.

Staples Network Services by Thrive is not to be confused with Best Buy’s Geek Squad, says Lippie.

“We’re not Geek Squad in any way,” he said. “They’re specific to consumers and the home office type of operations. Geek Squad is a reactive model so if something breaks, they go out and fix it. What we’re offering is a proactive IT services solution that eliminates or reduces downtime for businesses.”

Another office supply store that offers business services to SMBs is Grand & Toy.

Since most of Staples’ marketing efforts today are focused on the U.S., Lippie said he does not expect to see a lot of penetration into Canada with its Thrive Online Backup service. However, he says he’s not closing any doors of opportunity.

“We want to be inclusive and we want to sell the service to those in Canada should they want it,” Lippie added.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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