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When I saw in September the first Halloween decorations in neighborhood yards, I snickered at the zealous celebrants for jumping the gun.

A month later, it feels like I just saw those decorations for the first time yesterday and I am ready to concede those early celebrants were on to something: Time flies, and it’s never too early to get started.

If you’re a VAR, integrator or service provider, you might keep in mind the new year will be here in a wink. And while it is hard to give too much thought to planning for the new year while getting through the busy fourth quarter, it wouldn’t hurt to take a moment or two to consider some emerging technologies.

While no solution provider should rush to pick up a new technology, it is important to stay current with the market. Providers should have a good handle on which emerging technologies hold promise for the future of their business.

In reviewing new technologies, providers must tackle the key questions: Are these technologies likely to solve customer business problems? Are they likely to deliver on the promise of higher profit margins, as new technologies often do, or will they prove a drain on cash if they require a long learning curve that sucks up staff resources?

Solution providers also must keep sight of their capabilities. It makes no sense to make a complete left turn to embrace a technology that has nothing to do with anything a provider currently carries. Doing so is a recipe for disaster, unless the provider attains the necessary expertise, either through a company acquisition or by staffing up for a specific type of offering.

Of course, these are costly endeavors that not every solution provider can afford.

But expense should not preclude solution providers from exploring the potential for profit and user applicability of new technologies. Many new products, whether they’re hardware, software or a combination, are complementary to existing technology that require only a reasonable amount of investment in training to reach the requisite level of proficiency.

It is imperative to learn the technology, what it does and how it will benefit customers before pitching it to any end users. It makes infinite sense for a provider to become a user of the technology before trying to sell and service it. Savvy channel companies make it a point to do just that.

Nothing is more meaningful than being able to demonstrate to a customer how a particular solution addressed a need in your own business.

In 2007, which I assure you will sneak up on you, solution providers will have a variety of new technologies, and products that are just becoming mainstream-ready, from which to choose. For instance, RFID (radio-frequency identification), which has been around for years, seems to finally be finding enough applications in the market to make solution providers some money. Virtualization, endpoint security, quad servers and IP-based video are all bound to create opportunities for the channel in the coming year.

So be smart, but don’t be shy about investigating the potential for profit and customer adoption of new technologies. The most successful solution providers figure out along the way just what moves to make, when and how to help them stay in business.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and contributing editor to The Channel Insider. He can be reached at