Why the Hesitation?
If you as a VAR do not already have a VoIP offering, you might be focusing on the barriers to entry rather than the benefits thereof. A common concern is, “We’ve never done it before.” But that’s the same with any new technology. When physical servers ruled the day and there was one OS per box (remember KVM switches?), one by one, VARs started adopting virtual servers, and now just think about how many VMs you manage across all your clients. You knew virtualization was the future, so you got onboard. The same principle applies with VoIP – it’s only growing, it’s not slowing down, and if you haven’t made the adjustment, you are already behind the curve.
Another concern is, “We wouldn’t be able to support it. We would need to hire someone.” In the beginning, you and your team might be a little light on knowledge, but you do not have to jump in alone. One of the first steps is to identify a VoIP provider to partner with. There are a lot of options out there, and you can find a VoIP provider that fits your company best. Some VoIP providers do expect you to be the main source of troubleshooting when a client has a problem, and their partner commissions and discounts reflect that. Others let your clients call them directly for troubleshooting, and there are hybrid models where your Engineers troubleshoot first, then escalate to the VoIP provider if needed. So how much support you need to provide is adjustable, and you won’t need to hire an expert right out of the gate. And keep in mind, every VoIP provider that has a partner program wants its partners to be successful, so they will help you get launched with promotional material, events, joint sales calls, and maybe even marketing dollars.
Why the Green Light?
Traditionally, phones and computer networks were thought of in terms of voice and data. But it is not the same now. The need for POTS is quickly eroding, VoIP continues to blend with existing networks, and all traffic on a network is data. Voicemails get converted to emails, phones oftentimes run through the same switches as PCs and Notebooks, computers plug into phones and phones plug into the wall, and softphones on computers allow the user to dial from the keyboard rather than the phone’s handset. And that’s just what exists today. It’s exciting to think about what the next ten years will bring. All this means that voice and data are continuing to merge, and the time is quickly approaching when the idea of VARs offering VoIP will no longer be an option, benefit, or differentiator; it will be part of the prospect’s checklist as they ask you, “Do you offer cloud services? Do you offer VoIP?” As a VAR, managing the data that flows across the network certainly falls within the scope of your responsibility.
But What’s in it for Me?
In short, another revenue stream, the reputation of being a full-service VAR, and the ability for your company to grow alongside new industry trends. When you sell a VoIP service contract, there is usually a project that comes with it including labor and hardware. The hardware can be sold upfront or as part of a HaaS model. The service agreement usually carries a term that helps your business to be sticky. Depending on the type of partner agreement you have with your VoIP provider, you may get residuals every month for the whole term of the agreement or possibly for as long as your customer keeps the VoIP service. Another benefit is you have total control of the network when you are managing both computers and phones. If you need to make changes, you don’t have to call your client’s VoIP vendor to coordinate with them. So if you haven’t yet, start doing some research to see what partner programs are offered by VoIP providers, ask questions, and pick one that works for you. Then get out there and start implementing. You’re not in it alone, and you’ll be glad you did.
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.