IT vendors offer good measures in bad times

Technology companies are offering more financing options to help customers, especially smaller ones, tide over the rough economy, according to Asia-Pacific execs.

big on budget As the recession continues to take its toll, IT companies are rolling out new initiatives to help clients ride the downturn, according to Asia-Pacific executives.

Security vendor SonicWall, for instance, introduced three initiatives last month in response to the global financial crisis. Ang Chye Hin, SonicWall's Asean director of sales, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview, the cost-saving schemes are targeted at both existing and new clients.

"It is not only the legitimate business community which is feeling the heat of the credit crunch but the bad guys too," he noted. "They will redouble their efforts to take advantage of the current situation to make more money from their malware exploits."

One of the new initiatives is a "Try and Buy" program where customers can review a SonicWall product in their own environment for up to 30 days. They then decide if they want to purchase or return the product.

Ang explained: "Enabling customers to test the products live in their operating environments is the best proof-of-concept they would get. Customers can then experience first-hand the benefits of the product, ensuring that if they do invest…it will bring to them the ROI (return on investment) they are looking for."

SonicWall also launched "Trade-up" for new customers migrating to its products, and upgrade programs, where customers buy new and refreshed products at an incremental price. The company is also working with its partners to offer payment installment schemes to customers.

An IBM spokesperson pointed out in an e-mail, that traditional sources of credit are tightening due to the global economic conditions, hence small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have fewer funding options for their business plans. Alternatives such as credit opportunities with IT vendors should be explored, he said.

New lease of life
Tech vendors are also casting a fresh eye on financing schemes, such as leasing.

Hewlett-Packard, for instance, recently introduced zero percent financing programs for SMBs. Customers can choose either a zero percent 12-month promotion plan where equipment can be purchased for US$1 at the end of the tenure, or a zero percent 36-month lease offer that provides a fair market value purchase option at the end of the lease term. Both plans, however, are only available in the United States and Canada.

Brent Angus, solutions product manager at Datacraft Asia, said in an e-mail the company is working with partners to offer hardware and support leasing options to customers. "The key is to help clients change their hardware purchases from Capex (capital expenditure) to Opex (operating expenditure) by way of an operating lease," he noted. "In the current challenging economic environment, most clients are looking to reduce upfront capital investment and move towards outsourcing/utility based fee."

Companies often "do the best of things in the worst of times", added Angus. "The company that focuses on the bottom line without losing sight of its customers and customer satisfaction during these tough times will come out a stronger organization."

Lower cost, higher flexibility
Helping clients to reduce costs by tapping on enterprise tools, and offering them more flexibility, are also high on IT vendors' agendas during challenging times.

Datacraft, said Angus, is offering "a number of proprietary and partner ROI tools that can provide quick or in-depth analysis", providing insight on the costs and benefits of deploying a particular application or service. For instance, the Cisco EnergyWise program allows Datacraft to monitor the power usage of devices connected to a corporate network and reduce the power consumption to these devices as and when required.

"If an average company is able to turn off, say 2,000 IP telephones after office hours, they would be able to save at least S$34,000 (US$22,243) per year in power costs," he pointed out.

HP, on the other hand, recently launched its Proactive Select program, which lets large- and midsize customers purchase credits for use on a menu of 85 mission-critical services such as data migration or system health checks.

There may be more of such schemes going forward. According to SonicWall's Ang, the company will review the initiatives when they expire on Mar. 31, to see if the programs will be continued or new ones should be implemented.