Organisations of all shapes and sizes are struggling to deal with expanding data volumes. They are expected to store vast amounts of information and keep it readily available over extended periods, while IT budgets remain under intense scrutiny.
Our studies show that many organisations, especially those without dedicated storage specialists, are far from comfortable managing their data and storage. Indeed, few know precisely what storage systems they have or what data these systems hold.
This is placing stress on IT managers attempting to protect and secure their data. Frequently, such decisions are delegated to IT with little guidance from managers on the security, governance and resilience that data systems should possess to ensure business operations can continue safely - for example, in the event of systems interruption or site disaster.
The challenges are exacerbated in most small and medium-sized organisations because few IT professionals have sufficient understanding or experience of modern storage offerings to help them keep the business running.
Those responsible for disaster recovery in SMBs largely remain focused on traditional tools and techniques. The picture we see also highlights that many simply do not see most of the offerings as relevant to their organisations at all.
So the channel challenge centres on making customers aware of the offerings out there and helping them work out which might benefit them. A few key strategies are likely to prove most effective in getting attention and solidifying opportunities.
Helping customers recognise the technology options available to them, along with their costs and requirements for daily management, is becoming important as the packing and pricing of solutions previously only viable for large enterprises makes such systems suited to many organisations in the SMB space.
But a far more decisive factor in many sales processes will be to ensure buyers can communicate the business benefits their end users can expect.
The chart below points out the major principles that will help customers get a handle on managing storage today. Few organisations have instigated effective data governance processes, a matter that is often linked anecdotally to the tricky questions of data ownership and responsibility.
In addition, increasing external demands - including regulatory ones as well as changing customer and shareholder expectations to secure certain types of data - coupled with the apparently unending desire of organisations to store even more data, is bringing data governance to the fore.
There are a number of entry points for the channel. Most firms have no clear idea of the data they hold, nor its importance, hence the appropriate service performance, availability and security. So there is scope for selling data discovery and classification services.
From here the path leads logically through designing storage offerings at an architectural level, rather than as a series of point solutions. More people are now recognising that simply adding more storage will not do the job much longer, as the management overhead and risks become too great.
The channel can then deploy storage offerings that will be manageable over extended periods. Meanwhile, data growth and security needs require that sophisticated technologies such as deduplication, compression, archiving and encryption be evaluated. But to clinch sales, channel partners will need to explain the business benefits, not just talk about the technologies themselves.
Resellers have huge scope to help customers develop their storage management and cater for expanding demand. However, they must learn to communicate the business advantages if budgets are to be found.
More importantly, channel partners can help their customers address other fundamental matters that will require them to get even closer to how the customer operates, and will probably require them to bundle in a considerable services offering.
Tony Lock is programme director at Freeform Dynamics
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