Magazine Article | March 19, 2013

The Top Opportunities In Education

By Jay McCall, Business Solutions magazine

Digital textbooks, physical security, desktop virtualization, and mobility are just a few of the hot topics and trends driving this $20 billion market.

According to the Center for Digital Education, IT spend for K-12 and higher education will be in the $20 billion range this year — up slightly from 2012 with K-12 marginally increasing spend at a nominal 2% range and higher education remaining flat. “One positive indicator is that as the demand for digital textbooks increases, funds are being displaced from standard printed textbooks to digital content and the means to distribute that content,” says Eddie Franklin, vice president, public sector and vertical markets, SYNNEX Corporation. “This will be additive to the technology spend in the range of about $7 billion at both the K-12 and the higher education markets.”

Another important trend VARs need to be aware of in education is the convergence of video surveillance with mainstream IT. “Just as it happened 25 years ago, when telecommunications systems and IT converged, surveillance solutions are now becoming a core IT solution,” says Rich Bravman, CEO of Pivot3. “End users will need training and help planning the evolution of their systems. They’ll also need advice on how to exploit the many new features that today’s IT-centric video solutions offer, such as virtualization.” Pivot3 is seeing a wave of new system deployments where contemporary systems, tightly integrated with core IT networks, are replacing earlier generation stand-alone surveillance systems.

Despite the IT investments expected to occur in education this year, many schools are still underfunded, which reveals itself not just in a lack of computer and other IT purchases, but overtaxed IT departments as well. This is the primary driver behind the explosion in desktop virtualization deployments. “VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] used to be for the ‘big boys’ only, but that’s no longer the case,” says Bravman. Virtualization solutions have become less complex, less costly, and easier to install, making them the perfect fit for educational institutions that need to reduce their PC and software costs.

The BYOD (bring your own device) phenomena is also making its impact on the education market.

“The proliferation of mobile computing has increased the use of mobile devices within the classroom,” says Terry Cruikshank, senior manager of industry marketing at OKI Data Americas. “More educators are using mobile devices and find it imperative to print directly from their mobile devices. As school and district administrators have come to realize the importance of mobility, it’s a necessity for manufacturers to develop printing solutions that meet those demands.” OKI Data Americas’ research also shows that printing in color helps increase students’ recollection, recognition, and retention of material. With that in mind, the education market will continue to include color printing as a priority. Therefore, printing solutions that deliver high-quality color affordably are invaluable within this market.

Tips, Warnings For Capitalizing On The Education Market
To properly address the education market, VARs must consider the fiscal year of the institutions and plan ahead to ensure their solutions are included in budget planning and funding cycles. “Typically those funding cycles coincide with those of the state in which they reside but can also be affected by federal grant funding,” says Franklin. “Schools strive to have everything in place at the start of their education year, and the best opportunities occur before classes begin.”

With any opportunity, there are always common mistakes many resellers will make along the way. Here is what Frank De Fina, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Samsung Techwin America, advises. “The biggest mistake is trying to sell technology versus a solution. In most cases, the core decision influencers are not technical personnel including administration and school board members.” Administration and school board personnel need to be presented with the benefits new technologies provide — not technical deep dive about how the technology works. It’s all about the net benefit new technologies provide in terms of protection and total cost of ownership. “The reverse holds true when presenting system proposals to campus police or security personnel, who need to know specifics such as camera coverage/resolution, recording, and network bandwidth capacities relative to overall costs,” says De Fina.