There's a lot that partners can do to help businesses with the coronavirus issue.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

March 11, 2020

9 Min Read
Group videoconferencing

As new coronavirus cases continue to emerge nationally and globally, businesses and organizations are taking action to limit personal contact during ongoing operations.

This presents a big opportunity for the channel to lend a hand while both expanding existing customer relationships and gaining new ones. The channel itself is being impacted by the coronavirus: Two cybersecurity company employees who attended last month’s 2020 RSA Conference in San Francisco have tested positive for the virus, and at least one is seriously ill with respiratory issues.

In part one of a two-part series, we focus on the opportunities afforded by video conferencing. Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, said her company’s data shows that 59% of traditional channel partners – resellers, VARs, MSPs and agents – have not even begun their own digital transformation, so this uptick in demand for video conferencing “demonstrates this with regard to how they treated their business and our customers’ business.”


JS Group’s Janet Schijns

“Anybody who has been paying attention for the last few years knows that you have to have video conferencing, and you shouldn’t need to uptick right now,” she said. “If you had actually prepared for what the market realities already were, which was the digital normal … a virus shouldn’t make you have to prepare like this. However, because almost 60% of the channel – their own businesses is ill-prepared – it reflects in the fact that their customers also don’t have video conferencing. That’s a big reason why there’s so much demand for video conferencing, because … partners haven’t truly adopted digital technologies in their own business.”

We also touched base with 8×8, Evolve IP, Avaya and Zoom Video Communications to see how they’re addressing organizations’ needs.

8×8 is working closely with channel partners so they can help companies maintain business readiness and keep employees productive wherever they are, said John DeLozier, the company’s senior vice president and global channel chief.

We recently compiled a list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.


8×8’s John DeLozier

“We are providing partners with tips, best practices and other resources so they can educate their customers,” he said. “In addition, we are communicating to partners that 8×8 also offers a free video meetings solution so they can help businesses make the most of every meeting in the event they don’t have access to video as they shift to a remote workforce. We are encouraging our partners to take advantage of 8×8 Video Meetings for themselves as well as their customers. Our goal is to help everyone continue to collaborate and stay productive during this rapidly changing environment.”

8×8‘s core cloud communications service, 8×8 Virtual Office, provides companies with all-in-one communications, with mobile and desktop apps that fully replace their office desk phones, making sure employees can take their business calls or message on their device of choice, from anywhere they are, DeLozier said. Video Meetings is a free, cloud-based meetings app that enables users to conduct unlimited audio conferences and video meetings directly from a web browser for free and with no registration required.

“In implementing a remote work policy, regardless of extenuating circumstances, one of the biggest concerns is how to maintain the sense of community and camaraderie that develops among in-person teams,” DeLozier said. “With entire businesses moving to a remote workforce as a result of coronavirus, leaders are thinking about this on a much larger scale. 8×8 was specifically designed to mirror the fluid ways that people communicate, combining these elements into a single platform. Maintaining business continuity isn’t just a matter of …

… file sharing, but transplanting authentic human relationships and collaboration to digital without risking exposure to potential illness. We are also sharing all of our learnings and tips/tricks such as how to efficiently work remotely to partners and customers.”

Work from home for associates has moved from a designed plan for IT and HR organizations to a critical “do it now” issue virtually overnight, said Scott Kinka, Evolve IP‘s chief technical and product development officer and founding partner. Collaboration and meeting tools, access management, and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) are all a major focus right now, he said.


Evolve IP’s Scott Kinka

“Evolve IP’s technologies are purpose-built to enable employees to work from home and it’s been great to see our clients take advantage of the tools,” he said. “Collaboration and unified communications (UC) are two of the primary technologies they have been using. Also, starting several weeks ago, our clients also began requesting that we deploy virtual workspaces to help with remote working. Knowing that their associates have secure access to all of their applications – both SaaS and hosted on-premises – has given them a great sense of relief.”

Social distancing is the term that’s being used as a primary way to prevent coronavirus. Working from home provides that physical space, and with the right tools will actually make employees more productive while keeping them secure, said Kinka.

“We recently surveyed IT professionals and executives, and the average respondent noted that they were able to work 16 more hours per week using work-from-home tools,” he said.

There’s a lot that channel partners can be doing to help businesses with the coronavirus issue, Kinka noted.

“For businesses that want to quickly deploy identity and access management (IAM) tools, there are solutions like Clearlogin that can be stood up in a couple of hours,” he said. “These will help secure employees that are working on their own devices and are on a home network. Partners can also provide valuable advice on best practices around collaboration governance and how to use the remote-work features of their UCaaS solution. But the reality is that for most businesses it’s probably too late to make a major technology change. After things have settled down, partners need to go into their clients and say, ‘Let’s get you better prepared for the next flu season or virus outbreak.’ BYOD policies, work-from-home strategies and the tools that drive both should be part of the way businesses operate every day, not just in scenarios like coronavirus.”

Avaya said it will provide its Avaya Spaces collaboration software for free to educational institutions, including colleges and universities, along with qualified nonprofit organizations globally. Since January, Avaya has seen a 200% increase in video collaboration traffic on this platform.

Avaya has been keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 epidemic, and “taking action globally to assist colleagues, customers and partners deal with this challenge,” said Frank Ciccone, Avaya’s senior vice president and general manager of North America sales and service delivery.


Avaya’s Frank Ciccone

“With 4 million UC and contact center seats in the state, local and education (SLED) market, we understand this sector and are moving quickly to help,” he said. “In addition, we are donating Avaya audio and video equipment to hospitals fighting the epidemic, providing vital tools to help medical personal on the front lines. We’ve helped state governments get emergency contact centers up and running within hours to address inquiries from citizens. We are also working with partners and customers to leverage our solutions to facilitate remote work use cases, and provide Avaya contact center solutions that empower remote agents, to help address the health and safety concerns for contact center staff. As a technology company that specializes in communications and collaboration, we are in a unique position to step up and make a positive impact, and we are making every effort to do that.”

Laura Padilla, Zoom‘s head of global business development and channel, said her company is “doing …

… everything we can” to provide resources and support to those navigating the coronavirus outbreak.


Zoom’s Laura Padilla

“For our basic (free) users in China, we’ve lifted the 40-minute limit on meetings with more than two participants, providing unlimited time to collaborate,” she said. “We’re proactively monitoring servers to ensure maximum reliability amid any capacity increases, as uptime is paramount. We’re scheduling informational sessions and on-demand resources so anyone can learn how to use the Zoom platform with ease — and at their convenience.”

To ensure all of its K-12 districts and other institutions can most effectively leverage Zoom for virtual education during this time, Zoom is: temporarily removing the 40-minute limit on basic accounts for schools in Japan and Italy, and by request for K-12 schools in the United States; providing multilanguage resources specifically designed for principals, vice principals, teachers, students and parents to set up and use Zoom; and expanding live trainings, webinars and recorded offerings to share best practices for using the platform.

Additionally, Outschool, a marketplace for live online classes, has made available free remote teacher training webinars demonstrating how to adapt teaching practices and curriculum to a live video chat classroom, Padilla said. These webinars are led by Outschool’s teachers who have transitioned from in-person to online teaching.

Video communications allows users to meet face to face, collaborate, share documents and more without having to leave home,” she said. “With many companies asking employees to work from home, video communications is an ideal solution to keep employees from interacting with others who may be ill with or carrying the coronavirus.”

Customers are looking for solutions to ensure business continuity while supporting entire workforces from home environments, Padilla said. In turn, customers are asking their partners to recommend the best solutions for remote and distributed workforces to maintain business continuity, efficiency and productivity — all with a minimal learning curve, she said.

“Partners are looking to work with Zoom even more closely than ever to help them craft the right solution for their customers in this environment,” she said. “Zoom offers a wide variety of support for partners to help them communicate the benefits of using video communications to their customers. From account managers, online academies, webinars, how-to-videos, whitepapers and the like, partners have an array of resources to support their selling efforts.”

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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