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Network disaster recovery planning: Product sales opportunities

Network disaster recovery planning is only half the package. VARs who pair products with services can offer customers a complete plan.

Service provider takeaway: Value-added resellers and systems integrators who help customers plan and prepare for network disasters have a good opportunity to package products with services.

Network disaster recovery planning offers services and sales opportunities for value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators. However, you must ensure that the network disaster recovery plans you create are as complete as possible, and that you offer products appropriate for your individual clients' needs. In the first part of this series on disaster recovery planning opportunities, we looked at the services you can offer in relation to disaster recovery planning. Now let's take a look at the products.

Network documentation

Restoring a network to its pre-disaster state is nearly impossible without detailed and accurate documentation. Most network management packages include network documentation functionality that tracks network device configuration settings and can reapply them to replacement hardware like routers and switches.

Physical network configuration is as vital as device configuration. Physical network configuration includes correspondence between switch port and workstation, identifying labels on the cable connecting port to workstation, placement of the cable in a bundle and the path of the bundle. Cable management software packages such as UltiCAM 2000 by Total Wire Software Company Inc. and NetDoc by Brady Worldwide Inc. are designed to address these problems. They integrate information from office area blueprints with information about connections, maintain internal consistency and make both individual and end-to-end connections easy to see. Both vendors offer their products through channel partners.

WAN services

Customers whose businesses rely on their websites and Internet connections for revenue must maintain connectivity through multiple service providers. If customers host websites externally, they must contract with more than one provider to ensure that customers will always be able to reach the site. Many Web hosting providers offer partner programs. You can select and affiliate with two or more vendors and include Web hosting in your service offerings.

Redundant switches, routers and servers

Adding connections to multiple WAN service providers often requires additional switches or routers. Customers with more than one location may need to add additional servers to take over if the servers at one location go down or become unreachable.

Backup software and hardware

VARs and integrators can offer their customers a wide variety of data backup software and hardware products. Companies such as CA, EMC, HP and Symantec maintain partner programs as do smaller backup vendors such as Acronis, Atempo and Bakbone. Because of the large number of vendors and similar product offerings, you can add value by selecting and partnering with vendors offering products best suited to your customers.

Email backup

Email backup is critical. Again, there is a wide variety of both software products and hardware appliances VARs can choose from. Inexpensive software packages purchased directly from the vendor may be adequate for small businesses. CA, EMC, HP and IBM all offer software products suitable for medium-sized to large enterprises.

Email backup appliances all provide basic backup facilities but differ by the email products supported and by the size of customer targeted. Both Azaleos Corp. and Plasmon Plc offer appliances supporting Microsoft Exchange. The Azaleos product combines all Exchange processing and archiving on a single appliance that's managed remotely by Azaleos. The Plasmon appliance offloads the archive function.

Some requirements are industry-specific. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that email be archived on an unalterable medium. And HIPAA requires that patient information is encrypted. Both Intradyn and Tangent appliances store mail on WORM (Write Once, Read Many) tape, and both can encrypt mail.

Managed and remote backup solutions

VARs and integrators can also give customers guidance choosing managed and remote backup providers. Many providers of remote backup services maintain partner programs in addition to offering their services directly.

Amerivault, Evault and Iron Mountain offer multiple partner programs with varying levels of participation. Partners can choose to simply refer customers to the service vendor, while partners with software or hardware tailored to a particular industry can integrate the vendor's products with their own and sell a unified offering.

Iron Mountain also offers branded services hosted from the VAR's own data center. Technology is licensed from Iron Mountain and services are sold directly to customers. All of these programs provide partners with a recurring revenue stream.

About the author
David B. Jacobs of The Jacobs Group has more than 20 years of networking industry experience. He has managed leading-edge software development projects and consulted to Fortune 500 companies as well as software startups. .

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