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Considerations when selecting a data storage VAR

Data storage for SMBs has moved beyond basic email and data files to include increasingly larger file formats like podcasts and video streams. There comes a point when data backups, archiving, managing and supporting a rapidly growing storage environment is beyond the scope of a strapped IT department, and it's time to partner with a VAR that can provide these services.

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VARs can provide extensive expertise and consulting on current and emerging technologies. Additionally, storage VARs can handle rapidly changing storage needs, assist in regulatory compliance, assure disaster recovery and business continuity, perform installation and offer financing.

There are numerous considerations when selecting a storage VAR. You must know your current storage requirements and anticipated storage needs going forward. The better the goals and objectives are defined, the greater the chance of achieving success.

Questions to ask within your business include:

  • What problem do you need to solve?
  • Who and what is driving the need to examine storage alternatives?
  • How much growth is expected and what is the timeframe?
  • What are the budgetary restraints?
  • Are there any technology or system constraints?
  • What existing data storage devices and software do you have and will you expect to
  • upgrade or replace them?
  • What are your data availability and storage protection requirements?
  • When do you expect to utilize automated provisioning, policy-based data migration
  • or departmental chargeback capabilities?
  • What other types of advanced capabilities will you want, and when?
  • Can advanced features and functionality be added "on demand"?
  • Identify what your business seeks in utilizing a storage VAR by answering these questions:

  • Are professional services, such as storage design and planning, important to your company?
  • Does your company need assistance with a custom solution?
  • Do you want the VAR to perform installations and ongoing maintenance?
  • Is creative financing important to your company's ability to use the VAR?
  • Are you seeking to upgrade your existing backup and archiving solutions?
  • Develop a list of criteria you want the VAR to meet in order to ensure a successful relationship. Be sure you address each item with each VAR in the selection process. This matrix will help you determine the best VAR for your specific business.

    Criteria to consider might include:

  • What level of general IT expertise do you expect?
  • What level of understanding and experience does the VAR have with emerging storage solutions?
  • How many customers with storage requirements like yours do they currently have? Get references and check them.
  • How long has the VAR been in business?
  • What percentage of the VAR's business is storage?
  • Is maintenance and installation included or priced separately?
  • What are the standard communication and reporting procedures?
  • What is the defined escalation process should problems occur?
  • Is the VAR a member of industry groups such as the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)?
  • How do the engineers stay informed on trends and technology advances?
  • It is easy to get drawn in by the bells and whistles available from different VARs. By focusing on your firm's overall strategy and how storage VARs can support the company, the selection process is gamed to be more successful. Understanding all of the components in selecting the best storage VAR for your firm will lead to a long term business ally. The goal is to find a provider that develops into a long-term relationship and an advocate for mutual business success.

    Martha Young is principal and CEO of Nova Amber LLC, a business consulting company specializing in business process virtualization.

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    This was first published in November 2008

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