Internet brings IT closer for far flung defence

Frontline Defence Services (FDS) has brought access to IT closer for Australian Defence Force personnel for the past 10 months. And the reseller says that IT is a growing category for its phone and online sales.

The e-Commerce website and 1800 number provide a one-stop shop at which to purchase computers, electrical goods, furniture and consumables for Army and Air Force personnel working or residing at 72 defence facilities around Australia and offshore.

The FDS was set up as statutory company, a spokesman for the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Mal Brough, said.

“It’s a not-for-profit trust where all the profits, once the company has covered its costs, are reimbursed back into Defence in the form of an amenities fund," he said.

“The minister is responsible from a policy perspective, but doesn’t deal with the hands on, day to day profit arrangements."

Under the FDS, personnel in remote locations or serving overseas can now provide something for their families they couldn’t before.

“If [personnel] wanted to buy a washing machine for Mum for Mother's Day and they were over in East Timor, potentially they would be able to use the online service to have it delivered home to Mum,” the spokesperson said.

Manager of Information Systems and e-Commerce, Paul Eisenberg, said that in more than 10 months of online selling, IT equipment made up only five per cent of total sales but the figuring was growing.

Despite the large reduction in cost that could be obtained through piggy-backing on larger defence purchases, the FDS is considered a separate entity and does not gain bulk discounts, according to Eisenberg.

“We use Ingram Micro as a supplier for a lot of our PCs, laptops and components,” he said.

With a passing resemblance to Acer’s online model, it's no surprise to hear the FDS offers custom-built computers sourced from Acer.

“Personnel send us specifications, we generate a price based on our margins and mark ups, and send it out to them,” Eisenberg said. He is also happy to look further abroad to service personnel.

“I’d love to resell Dell,” Eisenberg said. “ I’ve asked them countless times but Dell don’t resell unless you’re a systems integrator." “We are definitely competing with companies such as Harvey Norman, when it comes to selling IT," Eisenberg said.

But with total sales of $50 million a year, and a total market of 28,000 defence personnel, the FDS was no threat, he said.

The FDS also offered in-house finance, Eisenberg said. Personnel could obtain an interest-free, 24 fortnightly payments option for goods up to the value of $3500, repaid directly from their defence pay.

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