CA Inc. plans to roll out tomorrow a new Recovery Management support program designed to help its partners that sell to midsized customers get direct access to high-level technical support.
The CA Partner Enablement Program is open only to partners selling more than $500,000 per year of CA Recovery Management products to customers with 500 to 5,000 employees, according to Frank Jablonski, director of product marketing for CA's midmarket business unit, which was launched in April.
The main benefit of the Recovery Management support program is that it provides a direct line to second-level support engineers, avoiding first-level support technicians who can typically troubleshoot simple problems but have to document and pass along complex issues to the second tier.
"We wanted to find out what makes it difficult, from the partner's perspective, to work with a vendor," Jablonski said. "One of the biggest things, they told us, was access to engineers -- getting their questions answered as quickly as possible."
Support engineers involved in the Recovery Management support program are also supposed to take a "proactive" role in getting partner questions resolved, Jablonski said, a role primarily filled by a "SWAT team" whose job it is to follow up on existing issues to make sure they're resolved.
"A lot of manufacturers make a lot of promises, and they don't all come through," said Moosa M. Matariyeh, storage specialist at Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW Inc., which beta-tested CA's program. "By nature we're all cautious, because we've been burned in the past. But I gave it a try because I had a very important customer who was having problems with their WANSync product. I sent out an email, and in five minutes I had a response," Matariyeh said.
"I hung up the phone with the customer and within a couple of minutes the phone rang," Matariyeh continued. "[CA's Recovery Management team asked,] 'How can we help? What product is it? It's WANSync? Is the customer ready to talk right now?' It was Friday ... afternoon, so you didn't necessarily expect such an enthusiastic response. I was getting emails over the weekend, checking to see if the customer's Sync problem was straightened out ... Monday morning I heard back again, checking on how the customer was doing."
CA's Recovery Management technical support program had previously been "on a par with others in that sector," Matariyeh said.
"They were on top of this [problem] like nothing I've ever seen before," he added.
CA, which is based in Islandia, N.Y., is currently fifth in market share in the $2.8 billion worldwide storage software market, with a 4.6% market share and $129 million in revenue, according to a September report from IDC. EMC leads with a 24.6% share of the market, followed by Symantec at 17.5%, IBM at 13%, Network Appliance with 10.7% and Hewlett-Packard with 4.7%.
In addition to access to second-level technical staff and the follow-up team, the Recovery Management support program funds a Solution Architect Assistance group that is available to evaluate the design and configuration of specific solutions to make sure they're put together most efficiently, before a partner presents them to the customer. It also provides an Advanced Education team that delivers high-level training to partners every quarter and a Partner Technology Center in which complex problems can be replicated and solved.
Products covered by the Recovery Management support program include ARCserve, CA's backup and recovery software, and XOsoft WANSyncHA, which provides business continuity, high availability, continuous data protection, failover and disaster recovery testing.
To qualify for the program, partners must have a full-time CA specialist on staff, fully train all their staff working on CA products and participate in one CA marketing event per year, in addition to other minor requirements. Those who qualify are likely to be among the larger of CA's channel partners, according to Jablonski, who expects only between 20 and 25 to qualify in North America and Europe.
"It's a technical support program for the partner, so if [they're] not already offering technical support to their customers, they're probably not a good candidate for this," he said.
CA doesn't require exclusivity, however. A partner can sell an unlimited volume of a competitor's product and still qualify, as long as they also sell $500,000 worth of CA's, Jablonski said. New partners can qualify if they agree to sell at least $25,000 of CA recovery products in the first quarter they participate, $50,000 in the second quarter and $75,000 in the third quarter, or $300,000 for the whole first year.
"We're starting to see manufacturers spread themselves too thin, overpromising and underdelivering on support," Matariyeh said. But the size of CDW brings an advantage, he said: "We've been able to work with those manufacturers to get people assigned to help us straighten out customer issues; they've been pretty responsive. But that's the advantage of being an 800-pound gorilla in this market -- the rest of the channel might not have the option to get that response."