Network Middle East Electronic Edition 5th September 2005

While demand is clearly booming for wired and wireless networks in the small and medium business (SMB) and home environments, a lack of installation skills on the part off end-users may be undermining the quality of their networking solutions. The network industry as a whole needs to make sure that the necessary skills and services are available in the Middle East market to ensure that end-users receive the best possible experience when they take the plunge and snap up some networking kit.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  September 5, 2005

Skills shortage?|~||~||~|While demand is clearly booming for wired and wireless networks in the small and medium business (SMB) and home environments, a lack of installation skills on the part of end-users may be undermining the quality of their networking solutions. The network industry as a whole needs to make sure that the necessary skills and services are available in the Middle East market to ensure that end-users receive the best possible experience when they take the plunge and snap up some networking kit. Put simply, if a home or SMB network — be it wired or wireless — is not installed and configured correctly it will not be capable of optimum performance levels. And this will inevitably tarnish the user experience and also have a negative impact on their propensity to invest in future upgrades. With networking technology evolving at lightning pace and the ongoing battle to define industry standards, there is a very real danger that customers become confused. The industry as a whole — meaning vendors, distributors, network integrators and even retailers — needs to do everything in its power to reduce this confusion to a bare minimum. It is a collective responsibility as well. A vendor may produce the greatest SMB networking products in the world, but if these solutions are being sold through a network of untrained partners and resellers, there is a very real danger that the installation will be substandard. When this happens, the natural reaction of the customer is to place the blame on the product itself, not the company that sold the kit or integrated it. There is so much that can be done to make networking a ‘friendly’ technology for Middle East end-users. With wireless networking products now a common sight in power IT retailers and even generalist stores such as Carrefour, this kit is now available to a massive and fragmented customer base. These stores are not just selling to individual users. Increasingly, small office home office (SOHO) customers and even lower end SMBs are just as likely to pay a visit to the nearest IT retailer as they are to pick up the phone and contact their nearest network integrator. How many of these retailers offer installation, support and service packages to customers when they buy wireless networking kit? Not enough is the obvious answer. Networking vendors and the companies selling the kit to the end-users need to get to know each other a little bit better. Together, they need to ensure that customers of all sizes are being served in a professional way and getting the maximum return on investment from their expenditure on networking technology. The Middle East is an emerging market and while there are clearly some extremely tech-savvy consumers and SMBs, there is also a massive user base buying networking kit for the very first time. These customers require not only implementation support, but also clear direction on where to turn should they need post-sales services. Many vendors will respond with the assertion that their products are plug and play technology. It is a great phrase, but it is really not the answer. One person’s plug and play product is another person’s technology nightmare. There remains a dearth of skills in the market when it comes to delivering high-quality implementation and service for both home networks and those installed in small businesses. As the overall market grows, demand for these services will also climb. The most bizarre point of this whole argument is that these services are actually potential profit pools for the companies that deliver them. Low-end networking technology is rapidly becoming a commodity product and these services offer a value-add escape route for retailers, resellers, integrators and even the vendors themselves should they decide to take up the challenge. The only way for any vendor, network integrator or retailer to truly enhance their brand reputation is to ensure that every single customer enjoys the very best network installation possible — from the largest enterprise right down to the individual home user. ||**||

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