Voice vendor Mitel and BT Indirect Channels (BTIC) have announced that they hope to extend their SME managed service offering, currently at trial stage, to more resellers.
The service, called BT Pulse, is being supplied through six VARs. It comprises a BT broadband offering coupled with Mitel's Managed Application Server.
BT and Mitel will provide basic management services, but resellers can offer tailored services to their customers for extra charges.
Stephen Ravenscroft, operations manager at Premises, one of the six resellers involved in the BT Pulse trial, said: "There are a lot of advantages to selling this service, not least that we can grow business slowly by installing a bare-bones service for a customer and adding extra applications over time. It also creates reasons for people to buy broadband."
Resellers, which make the initial sale and install the service, can supply their own appliance hardware or buy both the hardware and the server software from Mitel.
Bob Jones, managing director of Equiinet, said: "It's great to see the big boys endorsing what we've been saying for ages. All-in-one, remotely managed security appliances are ideal for SMEs.
"Their involvement will help increase awareness and be of great aid to our resellers in overcoming reluctance and scepticism on the part of end-users."
Mitel is offering its 6000 Managed Application Server as a software package or a complete hardware and software product.
Chris Jagusz, BTIC's head of business development, said: "This is a managed service, not just software, hardware and a broadband connection.
"We can offer 24-hour management on behalf of the reseller. Customers can check the status of their equipment on the BT site, and resellers can use the same site to administer the user's device."
Justine Cross, sales manager for managed appliance vendor ExoServer, said: "BT and NTL have struggled to sell complete solutions.
"But managed services are an excellent way of creating pull-through for business Digital Subscriber Line installations."
Cross said that a trial scheme in which the government had offered 1,000 SMEs free BT broadband connections for a year had run into trouble because it was found that most of the businesses were either not using their connections or had not secured them with a firewall.
"This was not a success for BT," she said. "You can sell broadband until the cows come home, but you have to have something to make businesses use it, and continue to use it."
Jones said the managed services market is a difficult one. "First, every customer situation has its differences and peculiarities," he said.
"Second, there's not much point in being half secure and it's not satisfactory if security is a burden in any way. Experience in product depth counts."FAIR EXCHANGE FOR COBWEB
Hosted communications provider Cobweb has picked up Netstore's small business exchange division for £100,000.
Netstore said in its annual report that the disposal would see its revenues fall by about £500,000 a year, but that a revenue-sharing agreement with Cobweb would bring in £200,000 over the next two years.
Paul Hannam, chief executive of Cobweb, said: "There has been a lot of doubt about the ASP model surviving. But we are expecting a shift of confidence as more firms see that it works."
Netstore began transferring assets and contracts to Cobweb's existing Exchange SME business in January.
Netstore described its SME Exchange business as "legacy", and said that, despite cost-cutting, it believed the business would continue to make a loss because it lacked scale.
Andrew Glover, director of Cobweb reseller Bridge Partners, said: "We think the outsourced approach is very beneficial to our clients.
"We use it, and feel there is no better endorsement than using what we sell to customers."
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