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McAfee pushes channel value of Quickstart remote assistance services

Solution providers share their thoughts about how security vendor McAfee Inc.'s recently launched "Quickstart" Services will impact security resellers' on-site consultation offerings.

Security VARs wanting to augment their onsite services with better remote management capabilities said security vendor McAfee Inc.'s new Quickstart services may be a helpful addition.

McAfee recently announced McAfee Security Quickstart Services, a three-part program that offers support for security policy implementations, user training and ongoing maintenance. The standalone services, which are sold through the channel and can be purchased by partners on an a la carte basis, include McAfee Security Quickstart Training, McAfee Security Quickstart HealthCheck and McAfee Security Quickstart Experts-On-Demand.

Darrell Rodenbaugh, senior vice president of global midmarket for Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee, said the remote options are additional tools for the reseller, particularly one that may offer strictly onsite consulting capabilities. "Many resellers may sell solutions to the lower end of the marketplace, where those customers are not going to contemplate paying for onsite services," Rodenbaugh said. "That may not be an option for them."

The Quickstart "Training" service allows access to a library of short, instructional micro-training video modules that provide demonstrations and other assistance with McAfee products. The "Experts On-demand" feature offers remote consultants that will aid customers with the implementation of McAfee-related security products. Rounding out the trio is "Healthcheck," a service that provides an assessment of a company's endpoint management and security policies against a set baseline of best practices.

Throughout much of 2009, Rodenbaugh hit the road and test-marketed the services with many of his national partners. According to the McAfee vice president, the reaction was positive.

"I was advised two things," Rodenbaugh said about the conversations with his partners, "One, don't go onsite. Two, don't position this as a replacement of onsite service." Rodenbaugh sees the services as an adjunct support, especially for the customer that cannot afford that onsite relationship.

Greg Spraggins, owner of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) Networks, considered the service complementary: "With our on-site consulting services, we may sometimes price ourselves out of the game."

Rodenbaugh also considers the services to be a helpful aid for a reseller's less experienced consultants. "The services will provide a training ground for their own people and provide a backstop for their own folks."

Michelle Drolet, CEO and co-founder of the Framingham, Mass.-based boutique security firm Towerwall, agreed and said via email: "We can use these services both to augment our engineers as well as provide an additional level of service to our smaller customers."

Gregg Rosenberg, owner and CEO of McAfee (and former Secure Computing) partner RICIS Inc., based in Tinley Park, Ill., however, was unimpressed with McAfee's training options, particularly as a way to boost his own consultants' McAfee expertise.

"[The instructional videos] are improving over the years. Some are still a bit incomplete," he said. "They give you enough to get started, but don't really offer anything advanced."

Microtraining videos in the Quickstart program address tasks like adding a user to McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator, changing policy settings for antivirus products, or installing other antivirus components. The videos run 45-90 seconds long, which, according to McAfee's Rodenbaugh, present value for a midsized IT manager who needs to troubleshoot problems quickly.

"If [an IT manager] can't get it done in a few minutes," Rodenbaugh added, "it may not be something he can get to."

Although some resellers and solution providers are encouraged by the range of consulting services that the QuickStart features bring to their arsenals, RICIS's Rosenberg said the new program would likely be of little help addressing the larger problem with McAfee's partner relationships. According to Rosenberg, McAfee is still too selective with its resources and support, particularly for its smaller partners.

"McAfee is only supporting partners that are selling big dollars and have significant staff commitments," Rosenberg said. "They're not being that supportive of a lot of their smaller partners that could generate revenue for them that they're missing."

Rodenbaugh, though, considers the new QuickStart offerings a boon for smaller partners who may not have specific knowledge across the entire McAfee product line, suggesting that the services will level the playing field and allow smaller resellers to more easily supplement their expertise. On-site consulting cannot be replicated, added Rodenbaugh, "For someone who can't have that, or who may have more limited resources, [the Quickstart services] may become a nice complement."

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