Is the cloud raining on the IT channel's parade?

By Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Distribution.

Read time 2min 50sec

The cloud - the technology that, in simple terms, allows users to employ and access various applications, programs and files over the Internet from myriad devices - is changing the ecosystem of the entire IT channel. Before the cloud took shape, end-users could only gain access to the goods and services offered by vendors by - sometimes patiently - waiting for it to travel through the reseller community. These include value-added resellers (VARs), managed service providers (MSPs), consultants, systems integrators (Sis), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and distributors.

However, the cloud has enabled self-service. "These days, it doesn't matter whether you are an entrepreneur with a one-man operation or a CEO of an SME. Anyone with a valid credit card can buy whatever services or products they need," explains Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Distribution, a leading supplier of consumer-related electronics and software products in South Africa.

"If your IT department is too slow in providing you with that server you need to be hooked up to for e-mail, or for your company's Web site to function; or if your supplier or technology partner has hiked up its prices and has suddenly become too expensive for you, then you can simply whip out your credit card, punch in your details, and buy whatever you require straight from the Web."

This convenience and accessibility are why the uptake of the cloud has been so rapid, especially among smaller business owners, says Campbell-Young. Most of the major hardware manufacturers have dedicated account teams to serve and manage the needs of the large enterprises, such as the major conglomerates that invest multi-millions into IT annually.

But those account teams do not always serve smaller businesses, so the vendors never manage them directly. Instead, that's where the reseller comes into play. Since smaller businesses often do not have the means to sustain IT departments, resellers become the sole IT decision-makers and solutions providers for all those smaller companies they serve.

Many resellers are feeling threatened by potential clients bypassing them to get their goods and services. However, according to Campell-Young, the cloud needn't be seen as doom and gloom for the channel. "It could, in fact, have a silver lining if the channel learns to work with the cloud. Resellers can actually use the cloud as an opportunity," he says. "For example, resellers can offer to help SMEs migrate some of their IT systems to the many cloud-based servers out there, or they could expand their businesses by using the various benefits the cloud offers."

In short, VARs must find ways in which they can exploit the cloud's popularity to add the value back to their own offerings. "At the end of the day, most business owners and CEOs do not care how or where their IT services originate and exist. As long as it works as it is supposed to, is secure and delivery is speedy," Campbell-Young concludes.

Phoenix Software

Phoenix Software, a division of the Phoenix Distribution group of businesses, is a focused software publishing and distribution business that is one of the leading suppliers of consumer-related IT software products through mass retail in sub-Saharan Africa. The company has a focused retail division, covering all major and mid-tier retail outlets across sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a focused small enterprise, SME and large-scale enterprise software division. In addition, Phoenix Software is a specialist volume licensing distributor and OEM partner for numerous vendors, creating bespoke software and accessory bundling for value-added promotions across the retail and business-to-business landscapes.

Having recently celebrated its 10th year in business, the company has established itself as the industry partner of choice, with a wide range of products boasting a diversity of categories. Services offered include volume licensing on all leading brands, educational discounts and retail distribution. Phoenix Software manages all services that assist customers with supply, namely in-bound and out-bound logistics, merchandising, training, marketing, publishing, key account management and market trends.

Phoenix Software's product range includes titles from leading vendors such as AVG, Ability, ArcSoft, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Exspect, Individual Software, ISLight, Kaspersky Lab, Magix, Nero, Navigon, Pinnacle Systems, Propalms, Oregon Scientific, Roxio, UniBlue, Lavasoft, Sony Creative Software, TuneupUtilities, PineApp, Parallels, Rebit, NCH, Zemana, Zoner, StorageCraft and Large Software.

The Phoenix Distribution group has a global footprint, with strategic partnerships in the US, Germany, France and Singapore. Phoenix Software is represented in the UK and Europe via a wholly owned subsidiary, PX Software, and has branches in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Phoenix Distribution is 50.5% owned by First Technology Holdings, the largest privately owned IT company in Africa.

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