Recent research by Evans Research Corporation has found that IT managers see Value Added Resellers and computer dealers as being the best source for enterprise storage purchases.

Enterprise storage purchasers, particularly those using storage networking technologies, have complex requirements.

The process to pre-qualify vendors is lengthy, often longer than one year. Users feel that they have to do a lot of homework to convince themselves of the validity of vendors’ claims. Effort is also required to ensure that the proposed solutions will work as promised in their environment.

To avoid this long, difficult process, IT managers prefer to purchase through computer dealers. This is particularly true for IT managers of small to medium sized firms that have limited resources to devote to researching the storage purchase. Dealers have completed the pre-qualifying and testing to save this effort for their customers. Dealers are seen as vendor agnostic, able to put together “best of breed” solutions incorporating products from different vendors. Dealers are trusted by users to provide complete, tested solutions offering the best fit for an organization’s requirements. In summary, computer dealers and resellers have the advantage of saving their customers time and money.

In spite of these advantages, IT managers are reluctant to purchase from VARs and dealers because of perceived shortcomings in technical support. It is their perception that while dealers are able to provide good support for the initial installation, they lack the technical depth to resolve ongoing maintenance and support issues.

Unfortunately, IT managers also report that storage vendors have often been less than helpful in cases where equipment has been purchased through dealers. Vendors are often reluctant to provide technical support if they did not sell the equipment. This is somewhat understandable, given that the vendor has no knowledge or control over the initial installation. However, the result is that users have been purchasing directly from storage vendors to avoid these support issues. This is in spite of the fact that dealers are the preferred channel.

Since few dealers have the resources to provide second and third level technical support, an alternative solution is required to address the needs of potential customers. One key initiative is for resellers to lobby to improve access to vendor support. It is in both the resellers’ and vendors’ best interests that customers have an excellent technical support experience. Vendors profit from the geographic and vertical reach of resellers. It is more effective to service these accounts through resellers than directly. Yet, access to technical support cannot be ignored.

Another alternative is for resellers to offer a technical case management. Users are looking for “one throat to choke” when they encounter problems. It is extremely frustrating for them to try to coordinate technical support from multiple vendors to solve their issues. As a case manager, resellers could offer first level support and then assist users in procuring and coordinating technical support from the component vendors. This case management could be offered as a value-added service to clients, expediting problem resolution.

If the issue of technical support can be addressed and customers can be convinced of their access to technical support, computer dealers and resellers stand to greatly increase their enterprise storage sales.

Jennifer Ewen covers storage products for Evans Research Corporation. She can be reached at jewen@evansresearch.com.</

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