Sure, there are plenty of experts in the vendor and analyst communities with valuable perspectives to share, but when it comes to determining who has the best SMB hardware, software, and partner resources around, we trust no authority more than channel pros like you.
That’s why when ChannelPro-SMB created an awards program we opted to base the results on your choices, not on the choices of a hand-picked jury or even on selections of our own. The ChannelPro Readers’ Choice Awards reflect the front-line experiences of VARs, solution providers, MSPs, integrators, and custom builders. That means winners and runners up alike can take pride in knowing that it was people with hands-on knowledge of their offerings who named them best of the best.
How the Winners Won
Winners of the ChannelPro Readers’ Choice Awards were selected by readers of our magazine and visitors to our website. A total of 919 votes were collected through Q1 2012. Readers were free to cast votes in as many or as few of the 31 categories as they wished. In each category, except the five concerning vendor partner programs, voters could either select a name from a list we provided or write in a name of their own. Voting for the vendor partner program awards was by write-in only.
Vendor Partner Program Awards
Best Technical Support
Back in 2007, many channel pros greeted news that Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. was launching a partner program with skepticism. Some five years later, voters say Dell’s PartnerDirect program is tops in the industry at technical support.
That VMware Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., finished a strong second in this category is evidence not only of that company’s skill at helping resellers deploy and service its products, but of virtualization’s rising importance as an SMB technology too.
Best Sales Support
Best Marketing Support
With revenues of $69.94 billion in its last fiscal year, Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is clearly no slouch when it comes to sales and marketing. Apparently, it’s pretty good at sharing that expertise with partners as well, because it took home our prize in both the sales support and marketing support categories.
VMware, which distributes everything from sales presentations to call scripts through its Partner Central website, was named runner-up in sales support. Second place in the marketing support category went to San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant Cisco Systems Inc., which has lately made channel marketing programs a high priority.
Cisco may be number two with channel pros when it comes to marketing support, but it is number one in incentives and promotions, thanks to offerings like the Opportunity Incentive Program, which rewards resellers for winning new customers and nonforecasted deals in various targeted markets.
If that’s the good news for Cisco, however, the bad news is that archrival Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., finished a close second in this category, helped no doubt by the rich new networking incentive offers it rolled out late last year.
Best Training Programs
Microsoft has dozens of products backed by thousands of training resources. Yet the sheer quantity of those resources has done surprisingly little to dilute their quality and value, based on the company’s first-place finish in our training programs category. Though a smaller company with a narrower product set, VMware finished only a short distance behind Microsoft on the strength of its broad selection of technical education and certification offerings.
Best Cloud/MSP Service Offerings
Best Financing Options
Best Sales Support
Best Training Programs
Winner: Ingram Micro
Runner-up: Tech Data
Best Hardware/Software Catalog
Winner: Tech Data
Runner-up: Ingram Micro
Plenty of distributors serve the SMB channel, but two clearly stand apart from the pack as far as our voters are concerned. Ingram Micro Inc. and Tech Data Corp. placed either first or second in all six of our distributor award categories.
Channel pros gave Ingram the edge on financing, sales support, and training, as well as cloud and MSP service offerings. That last award will undoubtedly be especially sweet to Santa Ana, Calif.-based Ingram, which has invested heavily in its Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace, which includes managed services and an ever-expanding portfolio of cloud computing solutions.
While Tech Data, of Clearwater, Fla., won just two of our six distributor awards, they were big ones: best hardware/software catalog and best RMA. Plus, the razor-thin seven-tenths of a percent separating Tech Data from Ingram in the cloud/MSP services category suggests that the former’s TDCloud initiative, though scarcely a year old, is off to a fast start.
Managed Services Awards
Best Remote Monitoring and Management Vendor
This, somewhat unexpectedly, was a rout. Though it competes intensely for market share with the likes of Kaseya, Level Platforms, and Continuum (the former RMM arm of Zenith Infotech), N-able Technologies Inc., of Ottawa, Ontario, received a dominating 68 percent of the votes cast in this category.
Runner-up LabTech Software, of Tampa, Fla., may have won just 9 percent of the vote, but that still put it ahead of larger rivals with more established brands.
Best Professional Services Automation Vendor
Competitors like Tigerpaw Software and Shockey Monkey will disagree, but this category was all but bound to wind up a toe-to-toe duel between the PSA market’s two biggest players, ConnectWise and Autotask Corp. In the end, Tampa, Fla.-based ConnectWise beat East Greenbush, N.Y.-based Autotask by a few critical percentage points, due at least partially to its flagship solution’s tight integration with dozens of RMM applications, quoting tools, and other third-party solutions.
Cloud Computing and Virtualization Awards
Best Public Cloud Computing Vendor
Public cloud computing is a broad field encompassing everything from Web-based applications and development tools to on-demand storage and processing resources. So it’s hard to know if Google Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., won this award because voters like Google Apps (its online productivity suite), Google App Engine (its Platform-as-a-Service solution), or both. Same goes for Microsoft. Which was more responsible for that company’s second-place finish, its Office 365 communication and collaboration solution or Windows Azure cloud platform? Only our readers know for sure.
Left conspicuously out in the cold in this category is Seattle, Wash.-based Amazon, whose Amazon Web Services are widely regarded as some of the tech world’s top Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings.
Best Private Cloud Computing Vendor
Strictly speaking, the solution that won this award for Intel Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., isn’t a private cloud. Called the Intel Hybrid Cloud, it combines a preconfigured private cloud infrastructure with built-in hooks to various public cloud solutions, enabling SMBs to enjoy the best of both worlds. HP’s entry-level CloudSystem Matrix private cloud environment helped the massive hardware and software maker grab runner-up status in this increasingly strategic product category.
Best Virtualization Vendor
That VMware won this award handily isn’t exactly startling, given that its share of the hypervisor market will decline to a whopping 65 percent in 2012, according to analyst firm Gartner Inc. The real action in this category was the second-place battle between Microsoft and Citrix Systems Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In the end, Microsoft, whose Hyper-V solution will achieve 27 percent market share in 2012 according to Gartner, emerged victorious in that fight.
Best Server Hardware Vendor
Best Desktop Hardware Vendor
They’re closely matched in the marketplace, so why not here as well? In a result unlikely to be fully satisfying to either firm, HP won a slim victory over Dell in the server hardware category and finished a close second to Dell in the desktop hardware category.
Last year, in a proposal many resellers greeted with alarm, HP toyed with splitting off its Personal Systems Group as a separate entity. Though the company ultimately rejected that idea and more recently combined its PC business with its printer division, all of the flux surrounding HP’s future as a desktop vendor may have cost it the handful of additional votes it needed to prevail in both of these categories instead of just one.
Best Laptop/Netbook Vendor
They may not be the flashiest products on the market, but Lenovo’s notebooks and netbooks remain popular with channel pros just the same for their rugged construction and dependable performance. The Chinese PC maker, with U.S. headquarters in Morrisville, N.C., added a new line of super-portable ultrabook computers to an already expansive family of laptop offerings last September.
As in the desktop hardware category, channel mainstay HP placed a robust second, aided by its wide selection of models with solid build quality.
Skyrocketing use of mobile devices may be raising the profile of chipmakers like NVIDIA and Qualcomm, but it hasn’t unseated Intel as the undisputed king of the processor market. In fact, 2011 was a banner year for Intel, which saw global revenues jump 24 percent to $54 billion. Coincidentally, that’s a billion bucks apiece for each of the 54 percentage points it won in our vote for best processor. Runner-up and longtime Intel challenger AMD Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., collected a solid 24 percent of the ballot.
Best Smartphone Vendor
Best Tablet Vendor
Was the winner in either of these categories ever seriously in doubt? Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4S, respectively, were the top three selling smartphones in the United States in 2011, according to research firm comScore Inc. The iPad, meanwhile, remains the overwhelming leader in a tablet market that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple all but invented. So while channel pros may still be scrambling to acquire the tools and training they need to support Apple’s products, it’s no surprise that they named Apple their smartphone and tablet vendor of choice.
HTC Corp. placed a strong second in the smartphone category. The Taiwanese device maker, whose North American head office is in Bellevue, Wash., is one of only two smartphone manufacturers to support both the Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone platforms.
Though it trailed Apple by a wide margin, ASUSTeK Computer Inc., a Taiwanese hardware vendor with U.S. headquarters in Fremont, Calif., finished second in the tablet category. Its sleek, versatile Transformer and Transformer Prime tablets have won wide acclaim from both reviewers and users.
Best Storage Vendor
EMC Corp. won this fiercely contested award by a slim margin, beating out runner-up NETGEAR Inc. by all of three votes. Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC has been pushing hard for SMB customers since early 2011, when it introduced its affordably priced VNXe family of storage appliances and began aggressively recruiting thousands of new resellers. NETGEAR, of San Jose, Calif., has long been esteemed by channel pros for its broad selection of high-quality products with SMB-friendly price tags.
Best Online Storage/Backup Vendor
At this point, winning awards from ChannelPro must feel like old news to Datto Inc. After all, in addition to claiming the hard-fought title of best online storage/backup vendor in our Readers’ Choice Awards, the Norwalk, Conn.-based company was also named best in show and best margin booster at the ChannelPro SMB Forum in March. It must have something to do with Datto’s sophisticated products and channel-only distribution model.
Intriguingly, second place in this category went to Datto’s strategic alliance partner StorageCraft Technology Corp., of Draper, Utah. Under an agreement announced last September, Datto includes StorageCraft’s ShadowSnap agent in its SIRIS business continuity solution.
Best Unified Communications/VoIP Vendor
Best Videoconferencing Vendor
When it comes to unified communications and VoIP, channel pros have a clear preference: Cisco, which won 31 percent of the votes, compared with just 18 percent for runner-up Microsoft. Of course, Microsoft can take solace in the fact that its Lync unified communications solution helped vault it past UC heavyweights like Avaya and ShoreTel.
Competition for the videoconferencing award was far closer, with Cisco defeating Polycom Inc., of Pleasanton, Calif., by just eight votes. Both companies introduced cloud-based conferencing solutions tailored to SMB requirements in 2011. If voting in this category is any indication, Cisco’s TelePresence Callway has slightly more admirers among channel pro
than Polycom’s RealPresence system.
Best Security Vendor
It doesn’t get much closer than this. Mountain View, Calif.-based Symantec Corp. beat SonicWALL Inc., of San Jose, Calif., by all of two ballots. Furthermore, the two companies together received just 42 percent of the vote, meaning that nearly six out of 10 voters chose someone else—proof positive that the security market is packed with strong competitors.
It’s worth noting that Dell announced its intention to acquire SonicWALL in March, after Readers’ Choice Awards voting had concluded. How will that move impact SonicWALL in next year’s competition? We’ll be curious to see.
Best Networking Vendor
Though it’s hardly the only name in networking, Cisco has long been the biggest. No wonder some 32 percent of channel pro respondents voted for Cisco in this category. Second-place winner D-Link Corp., whose U.S. headquarters are in Fountain Valley, Calif., was the top choice of a far smaller yet still respectable 19 percent of voters.
Best EMR Vendor
Healthcare is one of IT’s hottest vertical industries at present, and federally subsidized sales of electronic medical record (EMR) systems are a big part of the reason why. Plenty of vendors are vying for that business, but our readers chose Chicago-based Allscripts as their favorite. Smaller but scrappy Greenway Medical Technologies Inc., of Carrollton, Ga., came in runner-up, winning 20 percent of the vote compared with Allscripts’ 23 percent.
Best Digital Signage Vendor
This award pitted the industry’s leading makers of digital signage hardware in a heated struggle that saw Samsung, whose U.S. headquarters are in Ridgefield Park, N.J., vanquish HP by a margin of 24 percent to 20 percent.
Best Membership Organization
Runner-up: SMB Nation
Most channel pros who belong to membership organizations belong to several, and deciding which one does the best job of educating them on the latest trends, technologies, and opportunities can’t be easy. Ultimately, however, a slim plurality of voters selected CompTIA Inc., of Downers Grove, Ill., over SMB Nation, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., in this category. And we do mean “slim”: CompTIA won by just three votes.