“It’s like driving a car without insurance.”

That’s how Peter Sutherland, director of Channel Management, ThinDesk, described most SMB’s IT infrastructure. No disaster recovery. No business continuity.

ThinDesk’s strategy is to provide that insurance for small businesses. As their name suggests, ThinDesk is a virtualization provider, their solutions typically run best on thin-client PCs.

“It’s a fairly simple model – it’s based on a fairly simple infrastructure,” said Sutherland.

“The way it works is that we’ve got infrastructure; server, storage, connectivity, that we’ve invested in and that we have housed inside one of data centres…”

That means ThinDesk is able to offer their customers a high performance data centre. Something that many of their small business clients wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. And, with their smallest customer employing only six people, they mean it when they say their focus is on small.

“The vast majority of our clients are under 100,” said Sutherland. “That’s the holy grail of the industry. The larger vendors – it’s really the ‘M’ is SMB that they’re able to get to economically. We’re squarely targeted at the ’S’ in SMB, and there is over 1 million of those in Canada.”

The on-premise infrastructure for a ThinDesk customer is minimal. “It’s a hosted IT service. We go in and we help them divest of their on-premise server and storage,” he said. “We migrate all of their applications and data. I don’t just mean Outlook and Exchange, but their accounting, their ERP, their HR, whatever their core applications are.

Then ThinDesk sets up the customer with a secure, dedicated connection. Nothing travels over the Internet.

Sutherland simplified it even further: “We take their on-premise infrastructure, we take it off-premise, we virtualize it in our data centre and then we deliver it to them as a service.”

That service is best leveraged through the use of thin-client PCs. It can be consumed on almost any device, but the draw is the ability to cut down on costs that traditional full-powered PCs can bring.

“The service is ideally deployed on thin clients,” explained Sutherland. “It doesn’t have to be – it can be deployed on any PC or even an iPad – almost any type of device. But it’s ideally deployed on thin clients because all of the applications, all of the data reside and operate on our data centres, so they don’t really need a full PC. And once you deploy on a thin client – a bunch of good things happen…they’re significantly cheaper to support and the kind of desk side maintenance, [and]desk-side support goes away. To a lot of clients that’s almost half of their IT costs and that almost goes away completely.”

Customers who deploy a virtualization solution can usually cut their monthly IT bills down significantly – it’s part of the draw. But there are also other savings in areas such as power. Thin-clients use significantly less power than traditional PCs. ThinDesk tries to take that one step further by providing the customers (usually a VAR) with a single invoice every month. Included is their connectivity, their servers, and all their hosted applications and licensing. There are fixed components to the solution: the connection and the virtual machines. Everything else is a variable cost – making the solution extremely scalable.

Small businesses are generally going to struggle to get the most out of their IT investments. Choosing to go with a solution such as ThinDesk is moving them from an under-utilized solution to a highly efficient environment.

“It’s a change in perception of how you do IT,” Sutherland said.

There is a shift from focusing on technical issues and problems to solving business problems.
“What we really try to focus in on are the business issues,” he said.

Hypotheticals like, “what would happen if?” can be better accounted for in this environment.

Sutherland gave a real-world example of an office of chartered accountants deep into tax season when the power went out in their office. ThinDesk quickly deployed remote access capabilities to the users that didn’t already have it, and within two hours the team was up and running again from where ever they could find a connection. Since their IT was not interrupted, users resumed their virtual machines to find they were back at precisely their last keystroke.

For many in IT, they simply “get” virtualization, and the virtualization success story isn’t unique to ThinDesk, however the company’s growth and go-to-market strategy is very different. Instead of threatening tradtional resellers and solution providers, with promises of reduced IT infrastructure and support costs, ThinDesk has embraced the channel and now it’s primary growth strategy leverages VARs and IT consultants.

Next: One year in: How ThinDesk is leveraging the channel and proving the cloud is not a threat to VARs.