What's in a name? In the case of Educad, the first five letters make clear the nature of this Oakleigh, Victoria-based business. Founded in 1987, Educad is a systems integrator specialising in network design and installation for the education market.
Educad managing director John Graham says serving the education market is interesting. "Certain things are unique to education, such as the extraordinarily high demands placed on networks. For example, most education installations are going to have network traffic patterns characterised by high peak loads, such as 25 students all firing up the same software simultaneously. That kind of peak load doesn't normally happen elsewhere," he said. "However, the education market also has a lot in common with other markets. A good example is the range of customer knowledge. We work with everyone from people who are extremely knowledgable about computers, to people who know very little."
A is for Apple
Any discussion of the education market has to include Apple, which, according to whom you ask, has anything between 25 and 60 per cent of the education market sewn up. "We certainly encounter Apple in the marketplace, but it's not something we're overly concerned by. In education, you either have a sales opportunity with non-Apple products, or you don't. There's not a lot to be gained in going to people who are wed to Apple and trying to change what they're doing," he said.
"Overall, I find Apple to be fair and clean competition. Before I started my business, I was one of Apple's major education customers in Victoria as the director of computing at a large private school. Apple does very well in education because they pay a lot of attention to it and really listen to it - far more than other vendors."
Graham says Educad is a member of a number of partnering programs with vendors, the value of which depends on the individual vendor. "There's a tremendous range out there. I think it really depends on whether you're talking about an organisation that is dedicated to selling boxes, or whether it's a service-selling organisation. We're involved with the Xerox and NEC programs, both of which are very good. The ones that are interested in volume full-stop are less valuable," he said.
"We're also a member of the Microsoft CNR program and, so far, it looks quite good. One thing I like about it is that it actively encourages dealers to actually use the software. Microsoft has a very attractive licensing policy with the CNR program. On-site, we have an NT server running Exchange and that means we're able to look at problems and duplicate problems in-house."
Another major component of Educad's business is its role as an SMC reseller. "We've been involved with SMC for many years and found their products to be of a uniformly high standard and their support to be outstanding," he said. Sometime in the near future, Graham says Educad will begin dealing directly with SMC in the US.
The distribution scene
With regard to the current distribution scene, Graham has mixed opinions. "I don't think any of the distributors are particularly good at providing service. Basically, the only way I've found one is guaranteed of service is to deal with the original manufacturer as directly as possible," he said.
What does he think of king of the hill Tech Pacific? "I think TechPac is doing reasonably well. I do think they've bitten off a little more than they can chew and I would concur with some of the people who've said it can take half a day to get an answer back. But, on the other hand, I've found the people I'm dealing with at TechPac to be very helpful and courteous.
"I think it's a pity that there's not an equivalent-sized competitor," he said. "The market was far more lively and there was much more competition when both Merisel and TechPac were up and running. You'd call one to get a price, then call the other."
However, for Graham, price is not the number-one issue: it is support. "Distributors have to know what they are selling and they have to support their products to a professional standard. We have to stand behind what we sell to end users and I think distributors have a responsibility to stand behind what they sell," he said. With regard to support, "I don't mind being told 'I don't know', but I think the full answer has to be 'I don't know, but I'll find out'."
Educad Tel: (03) 9563 1998 Fax: (03) 9569 7466