For Bill Brandel, the country chief executive of Ingram Micro Canada, acting fast to help the many thousands of channel partners that rely on Ingram Micro Canada for its supply of IT solutions became the priority for the long-time distribution executive.
Brandel has been the Ingram Micro Canada leader for just over four years. In that time, he has gained a great perspective in the marketplace because he deals with hundreds of vendor partners and thousands of channel partners. As Canadian business and society were heading into an unknown lockdown because of the massive spread of the Novel Coronavirus, Brandel understood that financing was going to be crucial if any of these businesses Ingram serves were going to survive.
He decided to explore corporate financing programs and found a U.S.-based plan called KickStart. Ingram’s normal course of action is to launch programs in the US and then bring them into other geographies such as Canada. Since Ingram Micro Canada is run autonomously, Brandel decided to take KickStart and Canadianize it immediately. Called Future Funds, it extends roughly $110 Million in additional credit to channel partners, while also waiving significant financial service fees. Future Funds also offers exclusive payment terms to solution providers who are members of Trust X Alliance and SMB Alliance communities.
“It was always important for us to get out of the gate with the COVID-19 lockdown. We could see right away that this was not going to be a quick thing that was going to pass through the market. We knew this was going to leave a long-lasting impact. The biggest challenge is managing working capital. Even without the pandemic, many companies were transitioning from a project-based business, which is a buy/sell relationship to an as-a-service or consumption-based model. Those models put a lot of strain on working capital as many companies have to purchase the hardware upfront to develop customer annuity buying programs,” Brandel said during the Jolera Interview Series program.
Brandel does see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. “I am the eternal optimist, and I do see the light at the end of the tunnel as things are getting better in Quebec, for example. BC is getting back to normal, and in Ontario, while we are more conservative, I am encouraged that we’ll get back to normal based on the good feedback I received from Quebec,” he said.
In this unprecedented time, the Buffalo-native has been amazed at the resilience of the entire Canadian IT community and how quickly they have responded to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. “When you look at the impact this could have brought to channel partners, vendors and the supply chain… at one point it looked overwhelming, but this group has done an amazing job, and it speaks to the ingenuity of the customer base,” he said.
In this digital rich world, it’s hard to believe that the majority of Canadian households – with at least one child under 18 – only have one Internet-enabled device available to them. Compounding the problem further is that 13.5 percent of this group relies on a mobile device for their Internet, according to Statistics Canada.
This shortage is creating a digital divide in Canada. If the IT industry does not act soon, it could lead to many young Canadians falling behind other countries and negatively impact digital transformation.
Lenovo Canada’s Executive Director and GM, Colin McIsaac has been running the subsidiary for the past seven years and in that time has successfully introduced many innovative products from the Yoga, the Tiny, the Twist, the X1 Carbon, and state-of-the-art workstations for the oil and gas sector that are also used to design cars for Austin Martin.
But despite the business achievements, conquering the digital divide in Canada has turned into a passion project for McIsaac. During an interview for the Jolera Interview Series program, McIsaac said the digital divide, specifically in the education sector, worries him because a lack of access to current technology can severely impact the quality of education a student receives. “This is sobering, and you compound that with the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s a byproduct with schools not getting back to classrooms or staggering that experience and asking people to engage from home without a device or broadband or they are not comfortable with the environment, and this creates a much bigger gap between those that have and have not,” he said.
In comparison, McIsaac has more than 100 devices connected to the Internet in his home, and certainly, the narrative believed by most is that Canada is a totally connected community. But McIsaac believes there is a much more significant gap in Canada, and one of the pitfalls of the digital divide is the loss of potential.
“If someone is not able to learn properly, you can create a much bigger gap among the classes. Secondarily, we may miss out on some of the best ideas this generation has to offer because they don’t have access to technology. This is something we have to address, and, in my mind, it can’t happen fast enough,” McIsaac said.
SMARTER TECHNOLOGY FOR ALL
Lenovo operates with a guiding philosophy of “Smarter Technology for All”, and this viewpoint works to ensure that everyone can take advantage of technology. Under McIsaac’s leadership, Lenovo Canada is trying to provide a standardized technology experience for classrooms across Canada and in the home. Lenovo has already contributed more than $5 million in donations for Quebec’s back-to-school initiative, a co-sponsored plan with Best Buy to support the Boys and Girls Club of Canada. Most recently, the company made a significant Chromebooks donation to the Government of Alberta’s school initiative.
More needs to be done, according to McIsaac, from the government and the business community to address the digital divide in low-income areas of Canada since they have the highest percentage of mobile-only device usage.
“Technology has an impact on business, and you can draw parallels on the impact it has on consumers in their daily lives. If they do not have the opportunity to embrace technology’s competitive advantage, they will fall behind, and the longer they are unable to leverage technology, the worse it becomes. There are two ends of the spectrum here with people at one end engaging technology to their great benefit and learning experience and the other end, where people are not,” he added.
Watch the Jolera Interview Series featuring Lenovo Canada’s Colin McIsaac to learn more about how Lenovo deals with the digital divide along with its innovation strategy and how the company is embracing the as-a-service market.
A new variant of malware is attacking Windows systems. Dubbed Lucifer, this malware identified by security experts has cryptojacking and DDoS capabilities that leverage old vulnerabilities to perform malicious attacks. The vulnerabilities targeted by Lucifer malware include Rejetto HTTP File Server (CVE-2014-6287), Oracle Weblogic (CVE-2017-10271), ThinkPHP RCE (CVE-2018-20062), Apache Struts (CVE-2017-9791), Laravel framework CVE-2019-9081), and Microsoft Windows (CVE-2017-0144, CVE-2017-0145, and CVE-2017-8464).
Besides applying patches and increase password safety, it is important to manage these updates to guarantee protection from any potential vulnerabilities. Manage IT and Secure IT – Endpoint combined provide clients with 24/7/365 IT management service, which includes monitoring, support/troubleshooting, maintenance, reporting and asset management of their IT infrastructure (servers, storage, networking, applications, desktop/laptops).
New ransomware with peculiar features, named Thanos, is being promoted as a Ransomware-as-a-Service. According to a new report by Recorded Future, Thanos is enlisting hackers, and other threat actors, to distribute the ransomware in exchange for a revenue share of the ransom payments. Thanos ransomware is considered a serious threat because of its advanced features, like the use of a researcher-disclosed RIPlace anti-ransomware evasion technique.
Businesses are increasingly becoming the most popular targets for ransomware. Consequently, it is important that companies take measures to improve their security posture. Secure IT offers a wide range of services to protect organizations against evolving security threats.
‘COVID-19 Employee Training’ Phish
Security experts are advising companies of a new phishing attack that exploits COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign targets employees using Office 365, by sending them alleged training resources regarding returning to work policies, as COVID-19 lockdowns lift. Users are then directed to a malicious URL, where they need to provide their credentials.
Users should be cautious of suspicious email links. Services like Secure IT – Mail help scan emails to detect if they are legitimate or not. If they are not legitimate, these tools will block users from even visiting the malicious website.
John Dathan, the senior vice president and general manager of Insight Canada, admitted that as the COVID-19 outbreak was occurring in China, he didn’t fathom at the time it would lead to a global lockdown and the rise of the remote worker. But as he and his team began to deal with this unique challenge, Dathan switched gears in their approach to the marketplace.
Dathan has been involved in the IT industry for over three decades, most recently as the vice president and general manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Canada. He used this invaluable experience to guide his team at Insight Canada to serve customers as opposed to selling to them. Dathan got to work quickly to build a communication and marketing plan that would embrace Serve over Sell.
“Leaders have to be calm and collected to deliver the right intent. In my message to the team, I talked about Insight values of hunger, heart, harmony and of how. The operation has not changed, but we needed to go back to simple values. If you have that in place, people will make the right decisions. ‘Serve not Sell’ then becomes another layer to your value system,” he said. And, that is precisely what the Insight Canada team has done.
Recently, the Insight Canada team deployed an app for all teammates that remotely connects them to nurses and doctors. It has already paid some key dividends as the app was able to connect concerned parents of a newborn who was suddenly feeling sick to consult with the right doctor and nurse via open video chat. They were able to resolve the issue instead of risking the child going to the Emergency Room. The nurse then followed up with the parents the next day. This app provided peace of mind to the parents of this child, Dathan said.
The COVID-19 lockdown has led to many things, Dathan added. For one, he has spent more time in one place then he is ever had in his 30-year career. His desire to help the business community has gone to a new level, and he believes that the only way for the economy to rebound from this massive hit is by working together.
“To me, it’s interesting when people start to talk about ‘back to normal,’ and you need to put air-quotes when you say that. This is the new normal. Or it is going to become the new normal. People have been working from home for about 60 to 70 days now. The way video (conferencing) has played a role is fascinating. You can undoubtedly work wherever you are. The adoption of video in the last couple of months is the new norm. It has become truly collaborative with team huddles, social events and the ability to connect with people on a regular basis,” he said. He anticipates that traditional work hours of 9 to 5 or 8 to 4 will make way to a single stream of activity. “It’s going to be hard for someone to say ‘its 5 P.M.; I’m done for the day.'” On the flip say it will also be OK to inform co-workers and whomever you report to that you will not be available between 10 A.M. to 2 P.M., for example. Dathan believes there will be trust between staff and management and that companies will empower people to embrace this new working philosophy. “People are going to become comfortable with this, and there will be no more need to apologize because you have to take your kid to a pre-school ceremony,” Dathan added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for Dathan, but he would not say it the biggest challenge he has faced during his career. That would be the decline of Nortel. “I found that to be personally harder. In many ways, this feels to be a positive (from an Insight Canada perspective as no one has contracted the virus in Canada.) This has been more of a rally with the team to work together to deal with issues and solve problems. To serve our clients while protecting our teammates. I would describe this as more complex, but not as more difficult.”
Phil Palmieri, the President of MicroAge Canada, has been involved in the IT industry since 1984. If you think back to 1984, the IT industry saw for the first-time flash memory, a chip that could store 1MB and, of course, the introduction of the Apple Macintosh computer. So, you can say Palmieri has seen a lot during his career in IT. But nothing can compare to what the IT marketplace is going through right now with COVID-19.
According to Palmieri, this is the most challenging time the industry has ever faced. MicroAge Canada, with some forethought in its business continuity planning program, is weathering the COVID-19 disruption well. The vast majority of his staff is working remotely except for a small crew in its Laval, Que., headquarters, which includes Palmieri.
“There are a couple of ways to look at this situation: you can hide under your desk and wait for it to pass or be proactive and look for opportunities and ways to help customers remotely,” he said.
MicroAge Canada chose to do the later and took an active approach in communicating with all their clients to see how they could keep them operational. While MicroAge Canada vigilantly worked to keep its clients going, the company was inundated with inquiries from customers and prospects on issues of security and remote access.
“Call volumes increased five times over normal, and some people were even panicking,” he said.
Palmieri’s team dealt with requests such as how to work remotely, how to work from home securely, how to get the most out of Office 365, how to use Teams for better collaboration and video calls, mobile device management, and back up and data recovery.
If there is any benefit that will come out of this historical time, it’s the value of managed services and IT solution providers. “Our value, as managed services providers, just went up as people start to realize how important we are to the business. Before, you would get the thought that IT was just another department. Not anymore. IT is what makes business roll, and I’m proud of the systems, solutions and processes we deliver. IT is no longer a requirement but a necessity. Without it, a business doesn’t work well,” Palmieri said.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Palmieri and his team have received numerous messages and calls of thanks and appreciation from customers
Palmieri’s challenges go well beyond just dealing with customers. MicroAge Canada is a network of more than 35 independently owned and operated solution providers across Canada. So, Palmieri just doesn’t have to worry about the Laval operation but all of the other locations as well.
During this time, Palmieri has brought in weekly touchpoints with each location and their field teams. “The network is fine, and I’m very proud of all these people. They have been around a long time, and this group has invested in their businesses, and they know how to sustain themselves during tough times.”
Palmieri believes there is a good lesson to learn from all this. He hopes that after society gets a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic and everything gets back to a newer normal, everyone will see the value in IT providers and not take them for granted. “This community is not a nice to have; it’s an essential service and a must for business.”
You can learn more about MicroAge Canada on their website MicroAge.ca