The ASCII Group: Thirty Years of Helping Partners

By Doug Barney

This reporter got his start in computer journalism covering the channel in 1984, right when the ASCII Group was just getting rolling. I’m still at it, and so is Alan D. Weinberger who founded the group based on 40 resellers, and who still CEO to this day.

Back then it was mostly about resellers with storefronts pushing PCs, modems, printers and boxes of Lotus 1-2-3. As this business became a commodity and declined, VARs came to the forefront and later MSPs. Today all sorts of resellers and service providers are members of ASCII, including solutions providers, VARs and of course MSPs.

 “When I started The ASCII Group in 1984, I had a vision of wanting to help business owners who were instrumental in creating the IT revolution. I'm proud of the fact that so many years later, the 70 programs that we have established for our members have helped to expand their businesses. I believe that our 30th anniversary is a testament to listening to our members and remaining dedicated to their needs,” Weinberger said.

The initial goal of the 40 dealers, part of a chain owned by the now-defunct Ashton-Tate, was simply to form a buying group so they could save a few buck and offer more competitive prices.

Now that resellers are passé and adding value is the way to move forward, The ASCII Group has moved to helping “Solution Providers refocus their efforts back on revenue generating activities while providing support in operations, sales, marketing, purchasing, and vendor management. Additionally, The ASCII Group educates all end-users of IT solutions, services and devices on the value of the Solution Provider and their offering of independent, trusted advice that is not dependent on a particular vendor's technology,” the group explained.

New Help for MSPs

Last month ASCII launched a service to help MSPs share information, knowledge and advice.

“The ASCII Group has created several list serv rooms for its members dedicated to specific technologies, including Autotask, ConnectWise, Labtech, Tigerpaw, and Zenith. These list servs are a complement to ASCII’s popular ASCII-Link list serv, where 700 ASCII members currently post over 25,000 emails each year to help each other with technical questions, vendor recommendations, business questions, and much more,” ASCII said.  

To check on how well the groups were going, ASCII surveyed Labtech partners and claims these companies prefer the ASCII group to other Labtech resources. And being independent, ASCII should have communities where customers are more likely to speak their minds.

“There’s an incredible amount of information ASCII members share with each other on our list servs,” said Doug Young, Senior Vice President and COO of ASCII.  “Members who would otherwise spend hours researching an issue normally get answers within a few minutes when they post on our list serv, and many often learn about great product features they were unaware of.”

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

MSPToday Editor at Large

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