IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Market Opportunity: Capturing your Share of the K-12 Education Vertical

The exploding popularity of esports, aging network infrastructure, and mounting cybersecurity threats are just a few reasons why now’s a great time to be serving K-12 customers. By Eddie Franklin

Deploying the latest technology used to be considered a luxury for school administrators and educators. Today, it’s a necessity because of the increased digitization of K-12 environments and the number of devices being used on campus, as well as the need for campus safety and emergency management capabilities. Still, many districts continue to fall short on multiple fronts—from keeping their students and records safe and secure to meeting the needs of a new generation of students. 

The demand for STEM and STEAM-driven learning continues to create opportunities for IT resellers, as does the redesign of learning spaces to include collaborative furniture, interactive display monitors, virtual reality, and charging and storage areas. Beyond these continued market drivers, there are several other critical areas that resellers should consider for their K-12 customers moving into 2020.

The Rise of Esports
Esports is a major market opportunity that a large portion of the IT channel hasn’t tapped into. According to global survey data from Extreme Networks and eCampus News, more than 70% of schools are considering an esports program, as these programs improve the campus experience and foster STEM learning and the pursuit of STEM careers. Some of today’s classrooms are using games to teach students new skills and concepts, which encourages team building, strategy, and problem solving. 

Outside of the classroom, gaming is being offered as an extracurricular activity in the school computer lab or media center. And while the debate continues about screen time and the possible impact on academic performance, there’s evidence that esports has huge benefits. Esports in school transports students from the solitary world of home gaming to a common place that fosters collaboration and creativity. And some students engaged in esports go on to receive scholarships or degrees from universities. 

For IT resellers, there’s ample opportunity to support school districts around the growing esports trend, from PC gaming systems, gaming monitors, and graphics cards to gaming keyboards, mice, headsets, furniture, and even displays for digital signage. 

Network and Infrastructure Updates
Today’s average school building is 44 years old. This aging physical infrastructure, along with the continued demand for robust technology deployments and an increased number of devices on campus, is creating significant opportunity. Resellers looking to launch a K-12 business or expand an existing one should start by considering current Federal E-rate incentives, where schools and districts receive discounts and funding based on eligibility. By securing government funding to cover some of the basics—like broadband internet—schools can use other funds they have available to layer in additional capabilities.

As devices continue to move from analog to IP, everything ultimately comes back to having a strong network that supports technology implementation and upgrades. Campus safety remains a major concern and having the network and infrastructure to address potential emergency situations is critical. This starts with security cameras and building access control and even extends to the school bus, where districts are adding in-vehicle cameras, communication, and gateway devices. Some schools are building command centers in their front offices where they can monitor activity across campus. Districts are following suit, allowing them to tap into individual school video systems and alarm systems. 

Federal grant funds are available to address campus safety, and many states are also willing to assist with funding. Schools and districts could potentially use these funds to procure technology solutions within the channel in order to make upgrades to their infrastructure and campus safety systems.

Cybersecurity Threats Continue to Increase
Schools are an easy target for today’s hackers, as they historically haven’t had the infrastructure needed to stay fully protected. Endpoint security is especially critical at the K-12 level. The number of personal devices being used by students, faculty, and visitors is significantly expanding the amount of vulnerable endpoints. Parents and other visitors are also frequently logging into school networks, creating an additional layer of vulnerability. 

Resellers should reiterate the importance of a unified threat management system that can detect, investigate, and correct issues. It’s also important to find valued partners who can bring certified engineers to the table to design and configure cybersecurity solutions onsite.

All areas of the K-12 technology footprint are coming together, and the need for cohesive, up-to-date solutions is critical for the year ahead. Federal and state funds are available, and IT channel resources are there to support resellers as they explore new opportunities. By finding the right partners who are well-versed in K-12 trends and the latest products available, resellers can win big by capturing their share of this increasingly important market segment.

Eddie Franklin has overseen SYNNEX’ public sector business since 2008 and was recently promoted to Senior Vice President of Sales.  Franklin is responsible for developing SYNNEX’ strategy for the Federal, State/Local, Education and Regulated Industries verticals. He has also taken on responsibility for Comstor sales. Franklin has been instrumental in engineering SYNNEX’ Field Sales strategy and the development of its TSD (Technology Solutions Division). Before joining SYNNEX in 1997, Franklin worked at Gates/Arrow and Lanier. He holds a degree in Political Science from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

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