Guest Column | April 21, 2014

4 Ways Windows XP Support End Of Life Means Opportunity For VARs

Retail Corporate Tablet

By Patric Caya, Manager of Partner Acquisition, Leaf

After 12 long years, Microsoft has pulled the plug on Windows XP, and it is huge news in the payment industry. When more than 30 percent of POS systems and 95 percent of ATM machines still run on Windows XP, the discovery of a new security flaw in the system will be disastrous for merchants and banks alike. And since new cyberattacks are reported almost monthly now, it is only a matter of time. It isn’t that Microsoft has forsaken the payments industry. In fact, their reallocation of efforts towards developing better software is in everyone’s best interest, as cyber criminals get increasingly craftier. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s decision and its effects are indicative of a real need within the payments industry: the move to better, safer technology. Luckily for all, innovation in payment tech is alive and well, but it can only go so far without adoption. This is where VARs come in.

The end of Windows XP marks the beginning of a new era, one in which VARs are not just salespeople, but also harbingers of solutions and innovation. Specifically, there are four main opportunities for VARs:

  1. The VAR As A Consultant

Perhaps the greatest opportunity for VARs today is that of guiding merchants in the right direction. In other words, to a situation where the merchant can accept payments and transact with minimal risk of being compromised, at an affordable price, and with a technology that makes his or her life easier. Every merchant has different needs and there are many different options for each of these aspects. So, it is up to the VAR to be able to discern which of the myriad of services out there are best for any given business type and set of operations. Being the go-to resource for merchants to stay up to date on the latest solutions is a value added service in itself, and is a great new way to offer better service to your merchants. Real expertise will surely set you apart from the rest. This is easier said than done, which brings us to the next opportunity.

  1. Grasping New Technology

Out with the old, in with the new. Now more than ever, VARs need to grasp the newest technology in payments and small business services. Moreover, VARs must be up to date on said technology in order to successfully consult merchants on minimizing risk of a cyberattack, as well as using an optimal set of services. Additionally, VARs should look closely at the adoption of new cloud-based technology that isn’t reliant on third-party hardware or software. The end of Windows XP leaves many businesses in the US vulnerable. And these days, if you are not PCI-compliant, you are at a serious risk of being hacked. The fact that payments involve so much of people’s sensitive information means VARs need to be on top of the latest in both solutions as well as risks. Luckily, new players from all corners of payments are making innovative contributions to everyone’s security. It is up to VARs to determine which are appropriate for given merchants, indicating that knowledge and grasp of new technology is paramount.

  1. Opportunity To Create New Revenue On Upgrading And Upselling New Systems And Software

Windows XP leaves an enormous void for VARs to fill. Thousands of merchants across the nation will be looking not only to replace their now outdated systems. Even those who were unwilling to hear about new and better solutions now must do so to stay safe, and it is up to VARs to ensure they upgrade to the proper technology. This opportunity isn’t just about selling new systems, it is also about future-proofing your merchant’s systems. Of course, this is where the money stands to be made, so incorporate the previous points into this opportunity. If you provide a merchant with a system that he or she will have to replace within a year, then you will eventually lose his or her business. On the contrary, if you provide a merchant with a system from a company that will stay relevant and avant-garde, your merchant will be extremely grateful and will be more likely to refer you.

  1. Opportunity To Cultivate An Online Presence

Now more than ever, people are resorting to Google for solutions to almost everything. This includes merchants Googling VAR services. No, merchants aren’t Googling individual VARs themselves; they are Googling specific VAR services and how they can use them. As I said above, it is true that the end of Windows XP leaves an enormous void for VARs to fill; however, merchants are surely turning to Google before doing anything. This overwhelming amount of merchants looking up VAR services online provides the fourth new opportunity for VARs: establishing and cultivating an online presence. The Internet provides a great opportunity for VARs to establish themselves and their personal brand as a source of expertise, thus showcasing services and generating new leads. There are various ways and free advice for going about doing this, but the overall purpose is for merchants in need to find you via Google. If you want more business, make sure to be present where your customers are searching.

These opportunities are all aimed at positioning VARs in a competitive spot for the upcoming wave in adoption of new technology. Merchants will make the move to safer technology, and the reality is that they will do so with or without VAR help. That being said, what matters is that merchants upgrade to the right technology and services at an affordable price. This, specifically, is the responsibility of VARs in today’s post-Windows XP era. These four points present opportunities for filling said responsibility, but are certainly not the only way. Are there any other options that you would add to this list?