In Newborough, in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, there's an organisation that may be the living proof that computer vendors need to develop and maintain their channel partnerships.
Over the past three years, Lowanna College is reported to have spent more than a million dollars on its IT infrastructure, with the majority of this investment being made with Melbourne-based education specialist system integrator Histar Invotek Group (HIG).
HIG's business development manager, education, Eddie Ragauskas, said that the relationship with Lowanna started when the college sent out "feelers" for a partnership arrangement to upgrade its IT facilities. As well as approaching Acer, among other vendors, directly, and Acer in turn referring the school to its channel partner, HIG became aware of the school's needs through other channels.
HIG had also been involved with the Victorian Department of Education (DOE) on its wide area network called Vic One, which has given the company some synergistic opportunities for working with other schools in the DOE.
Lowanna's computer system is built around an Acer Altos server running three 9GB hard drives in a RAID 5 array, and another smaller Altos server for its communications. There are more than 200 AcerPower PCs and by the end of 1999 it is expected it will be a 100 per cent Acer site. The key word in this scenario is partner.
"There is no way a direct model is going to meet the needs of a client like Lowanna, which needs a lot of servicing," said Ragauskas. "There are a lot of kilometres on my tyres going down there and making sure everything is OK."
And that individual attention and flexible nature of the service provided by the reseller is the point. According to Ragauskas, the more difficult, the more unique the needs of the market are, the more resellers have an opportunity. "Working a vertical market is where resellers have to go, and we focus ourselves on education," he said. "We have the database and the framework in place to serve the education market, and this means we have leverage with vendors that have products which suit this market."
The Lowanna College story is an illustration of how the partnership approach works - client, vendor and reseller. "We see our role and survival as being able to go through the process of identifying the client's needs, but in a more global sense and to be willing to help get those needs met. In education, our approach is to take the pain away. Education is a hard market and to make any money you've got to do what you do well," Ragauskas said.