Staples seeks bigger role in IT services

Retailer is creating a new business unit

Staples Inc. is expanding its IT services capabilities in a move that will take it right inside the data center.

Staples Inc., the Framingham, Mass.-based retailer with 1,872 stores in North America, is expanding its IT services capabilities in a move that will take it right inside the data center.

The company has been working deliberately in recent years to expand its services capabilities. In 2006, Staples bought Thrive Networks, a managed services provider, and in 2008 it acquired Corporate Express, a supplier of office products to businesses and institutions, for $4.8 billion. The new unit, Staples Technology Solutions, "is the combined entity of those two groups," said Joe Kalinowski, the vice president of finance for the technology solutions unit.

Staples, which has 91,000 employees, reported total net sales last quarter of $6.5 billion. "Technology was a logical extension...," said Kalinowski.

Staples officials said they're aiming for all sizes of clients with consulting services, data center services such as disaster recovery and data center media management. The company also has printer management services and has built its own software for managing operations.

From the Thrive Networks acquisition, Staples developed managed services for smaller firms of less than 250 employees, though some large customers use the services, too, said Jim Lippie, vice president of Staples Network Services.

The company, which has 3,000 clients, runs a 24-by-7 network operations center that can offer managed services for all major small-business technologies, including the Linux and Macintosh operating systems. Staples can install agents on hardware to monitor performance and dispatch people for on-site work.

Bob Laliberte, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said Staples' printer services are already reaching into large enterprises, while many of its other services are aimed at SMBs, including customers with whom it already has supply contracts. "I think they are looking at this as an extension of their brand and services," he said.

Staples sees local resellers and IT services shops as its primary competitors.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld . Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

Read more about servers and data center in Computerworld's Servers and Data Center Knowledge Center.

This story, "Staples seeks bigger role in IT services" was originally published by Computerworld.

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