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Inside a DaaS service pact: EarthLink teams with IndependenceIT

EarthLink, a cloud service provider, and IndependenceIT, a DaaS vendor, provide an example of partnering in the emerging hosted desktop space.

Hosted desktop as a service (DaaS) is an ideal solution for companies that have a geographically dispersed workforce and a dynamic business model that requires them to scale up and down as their employee needs change.

That's what Student Transportation Inc. (STI) discovered. The provider of busing services transports more than one million students a day on 9,500 vehicles and 130 bus terminals throughout the U.S. and Canada. The company, which uses more than 60 applications to run its business, partnered with EarthLink, which uses Cloud Workspace Suite from IndependenceIT as its DaaS service offering.

"For companies that want very rapid deployment of [apps] and have security issues and … don't want to have the hassle of doing all that manually with hardware, desktop as a service is great solution," said Stephen Currie, vice president of managed services product management at EarthLink, which provides the EarthLink Cloud Workspace DaaS platform to STI. "We've seen a huge increase of customers going in that direction."

Indeed, cloud represents the greatest promise for delivering new value "as-a-service," according to a newly released report from Accenture and HfS Research. One in four buyers (27%) believe they will see significant progress from current investments in plug-and-play resources. Forty-four percent of senior executives said they would be willing to write off legacy IT investments and move straight to the cloud if they could find the right solution that gives them speed to value, the report found.

How EarthLink deploys hosted desktop services

EarthLink began offering a DaaS service about three years ago and Currie believes that while still in the early stages of adoption, DaaS makes sense for companies that want to avoid the hassle of configuring their own desktops and laptops, ensuring they are secure, shipping them to employees in remote locations and dealing with getting the hardware back.

STI was already an IndependenceIT customer when the DaaS software company was in the managed services business, and Currie said it was a seamless and transparent transition when EarthLink took over the software vendor's customers, since EarthLink was already a channel partner offering the DaaS platform.

For companies that want very rapid deployment of [apps] and have security issues ... desktop as a service is great solution.
Stephen CurrieVP of managed services product management, EarthLink

The IndependenceIT platform gave EarthLink the ability to rapidly deploy the necessary infrastructure, including the servers and virtual machines required to deliver the desktop solution, said Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT. As a result, EarthLink can more easily manage its customers, he added.

"If you think about what it takes to solve a problem, you have to have the infrastructure to run a product and you have to have a support organization to be able to offer support to end users," as well as a distribution channel to sell the product, Currie said.

IndependenceIT also provides a management console so STI can make administrative changes such as permissions to access apps or provide new apps through a single pane of glass, Currie said. EarthLink offers Tier 1 and Tier 2 support to the company, and if issues cannot be resolved at EarthLink they are escalated back to IndependenceIT on STI's behalf.

One example of an escalation would be if the bus company built a custom app that isn't working properly.

"IndependenceIT has more experience with that than EarthLink does," Currie said, who noted that EarthLink takes care of things like password support and latency issues.

EarthLink charges a monthly recurring fee per seat, per desktop and pays IndependenceIT a monthly core licensing fee also based on a per seat, per desktop model. IndependenceIT also hosts some of its DaaS platform on EarthLink and pays it a cloud hosting fee.

DaaS service providers navigate sales challenges

Currie said there have been no major barriers for EarthLink entering the DaaS market, but he believes it is still early in the evolution of hosted desktop as a service.

"Where there have been barriers is around the sales motion and getting customers more comfortable with the concept of desktop as a service," he explained. "For people using it like Student Transportation, they love it and I think it's hard for them imaging using something else."

For a company exploring DaaS, whose IT department "isn't there yet and not thinking about that, going to them and trying to convince them it's a better solution for them -- there's been some challenge around that."

STI, however, needed less convincing. The transportation company's previous association with IndependenceIT helped pave the way for the DaaS service.

Working with Independence IT over the years "opened our eyes to the strategic benefits of the cloud," said Keith Engelbert, STI's CTO, in a prepared statement.

Next Steps

IndependenceIT's Cloud Workspace brings DaaS to VARs, MSPs

Read about the security risks and rewards of a hosted desktop service

Gain insight into the factors driving the adoption of hosted desktop as a service

Workspace as a service vs. DaaS: Channel execs talk distinctions between the two

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