By David Strom
Unified threat management (UTM) products offer value-added resellers (VARs) and service providers a great business opportunity. A UTM device features the combined capabilities of a firewall, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and network antivirus to protect against multiple threats – all in a single box that a VAR can manage remotely.
There are many UTM offerings, but the two most important for the channel are Check Point Software Technologies' Safe@Office product line and SonicWall Inc.'s Global Management System. Both vendors' devices are not much larger than your average Harry Potter hardback. Also, both vendors can automatically update their firmware on a regular basis, ensuring that virus signature files and other threat detection rules are current so you don't have to constantly remind your clients to do these chores.
Both Check Point and SonicWall offer models with additional features, such as wireless access points and rudimentary virtual private networks, making UTM even more compelling as a one-stop access and security device.
The reseller benefits of UTM
UTM offers VARs distinct advantages as well. Having a managed UTM device on your line card gives you the opportunity to collect a monthly annuity, which is built into the product via subscriptions to various security services. For example, many UTM products offer subscriptions for network antivirus and antispam updates, similar to their desktop equivalents, and VARs get a percentage of this revenue stream. VARs can also get a cut of per-seat license fees built into these products.
You also have a box that can be easily upgraded as your customers' networks grow and become more sophisticated, particularly by using SonicWall's Global Management System. "SonicWall's GMS made it easier to manage firewalls for our customers and takes a lot of legwork out of the process. Pushing one button, I can update the firmware on 20 firewalls at once," said Deepak Thadani, President of Woodside, NY-based SysIntegrators LLC.
You can remotely monitor and configure the box using a Web browser without having to show up on site, making it easier for both you and your customer to maintain their networks. And with some compelling margins, you have a reason to stay in touch with this customer and expand your services over time.
But VARs need solid monitoring staff to support these kinds of sales. "VARs that want to get into managed services have to go beyond just answering pagers and know how to staff a network operations center with the right kinds of field engineers," says Kevin McDonald, the vice president of Alvaka Networks Inc. of Huntington Beach, Calif. and a SonicWall VAR.
Choosing a UTM device
The largest choice of unified threat management products comes from Sonicwall, who has been selling SMB-based firewall/routers for the longest and is also pricier. They have different boxes for all sized networks. They also have the most well-developed partner program, so they are a good place to start. "SonicWall recognizes that they have to custom-tailor their program to individual VARs' needs, and they have been phenomenally supportive of us. They are also willing to tell you what other VARs are doing without giving away any secrets," says McDonald.
Sonicwall sets its security policies by individual module: one for antivirus, another for firewall rules and so forth. It is easy enough to set up the basic rules and by choosing defaults a box can be running within an hour in most cases.
VARs that know security, have a good relationship with one or more Internet providers, and are willing to staff their own operations centers can easily gain some solid revenue here, and build up a nice business selling these managed products.
David Strom is a speaker, podcaster, and freelance writer for TechTarget and was the former editor-in-chief at Tom's Hardware and Network Computing magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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