Zeroing In On More Data Center Revenue
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
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Posted on: 01/23/2013



 

By Monty Reagan

“Space? Power? Bandwidth? How much do you need, Mr. Customer, for your data center configuration?"

Sounds easy enough, but to craft the right data center solution for your client, a lot more thought and consideration is required. With the ever-changing technological landscape, decision makers must ensure they are leveraging the latest technology advancements, scaling resources, adding revenue streams and increasing productivity — all while ensuring their data and business operations are protected and secure.

By understanding the client first, channel providers can further ensure they are creating business value across all of these key areas and are in turn maximizing their own revenue streams. This article will explore the discovery phase required to craft an optimal data center solution.

To dig in, the first step is to comprehensively qualify the client. Understand all aspects of the customer’s business, so you can ensure your ultimate solution offers the assurance and security the customer needs to reliably house their business-critical applications and data.

I’m stating the obvious here, but it’s important: learning the basics — whether the client is a public or privately held company, management structure, number of employees and office locations — will lay the groundwork for the rest of your IT needs analysis.

Another key is to drill down into how the firm generates its revenue. This will help you to ensure your solution from the very beginning is maximizing the bottom line and enabling the customer to change and grow as their business evolves.

Investigation — A Deeper Look Into IT

Reviewing all characteristics of your client’s IT department will help you gain a clearer understanding of how the organization functions. This process will also help you identify potential challenges, plan for growth and even be ready for the unexpected.

  • Ask what role the IT department plays in revenue generation. This will help determine the full impact of buying decisions and how to streamline cost savings to make IT a "hero."
  • Know your customer’s team. Identify key IT personnel, their respective responsibilities and who makes the final decisions. Your conversations should change based on who you're speaking with within the organization.
  • Identify where the company’s mission-critical infrastructure resides. Is this managed in-house or outsourced to another group?
  • If infrastructure resides in-house, try to uncover what the current data center issues are. What are the pain points?

  • If you are working with a company that already outsources its infrastructure, then find out who the current vendor is and contract end dates. Don’t be shy about asking about any issues the prospect has encountered or about unexpected downtime. Knowing about these experiences will help you add value to the final solution. Also, determine if the client requires any managed services or just colocation (power and space).
  • What are the components making up the infrastructure? Ask how many servers, what types of operating systems and databases are supported. Review the firm’s current network configuration and hardware refresh cycle. What types of circuits do they have (Internet, point-to-point connections, voice and data configurations)?

Painting the Big Picture

Once you have identified these areas, take a look at which of the infrastructure components are considered to be mission-critical and what happens if any one area is not operational. Downtime affects businesses in different ways, and the impact can be devastating on many levels — operations, sales, support and customer retention. Fully knowing how downtime affects the business is key to designing a solution that quickly and reliably protects the customer when needed.

Don’t forget to also assess future needs and requirements. The rapid ebb and flow of business these days requires companies to have the flexibility to easily change configurations, along with quickly planning for growth and expansion. For example, if your client has a large IT project planned later in the year, this can mean they will need additional floor and cabinet space. It may also mean that expanding into cloud computing resources could be a solution to their growth needs. Mapping this out early in the design process can save valuable time and money in the long run.

We all know that every client is unique and different. By taking the time to understand an organization fully — at the beginning of the sales process rather than leading with your set of services — you can ensure you are creating value from the onset.

Zeroing In on More Data Center Revenue

Channel providers, in their quest to increase revenue for their bottom line and value-add for their clients, are faced with the challenge of how best to approach their clients’ business issues and technical needs. By initiating a detailed investigation with thoughtful questions at the onset about the client’s business and organizational structure, agents and resellers can more aptly design a solution that solves issues and ultimately creates more value. Moving forward with the best approach and most optimal product mix from the start is key and will ultimately save time and resources in the long run.

As discussed, incorporating colocation and ancillary services into your overall solution can achieve both goals — more revenue for you and more value for your client. But there are additional areas to explore when qualifying a client for a data center solution. This will help you more quickly identify the right solution set, solve business challenges and maximize value for your client.

  • What security or compliance needs does the customer have? You can provide a value-added solution by letting them know about your compliance capabilities and layering on security solutions that the customer may not have had the resources or expertise to handle themselves. Understanding which compliance and regulatory obligations your client faces will ensure your solution is viable. To effectively meet your customers’ needs, reviewing the security, governance and risk management framework of policies, procedures and standards is essential. Customers that are public, in health care or provide credit card services, for example, often need to meet SSAE 16 SOC 1 and 3, HIPAA, PCI industry standard compliance requirements, and often many more. Identify these requirements upfront in your discovery phase, and you will further ensure the data center solution you present complies with their specific needs.
  • People make a difference: What is the status of IT staffing for your client? Does the company have technical staff available around the clock to handle IT support? Is there a need to augment staff after hours? You should also ask about the skill level of existing staff. By stepping through the number of staff and level of expertise available, it will further fine-tune your overall recommended solution.
  • Buy vs. lease = capex vs. opex. It’s clear that purchasing all of the software, equipment and licenses to support an IT infrastructure can be expensive, not to mention all of the costs, expertise and time associated with the maintenance and management of the life cycle of the gear. Work through both options with your potential client. The capex model includes the total package of buying servers, routers, firewalls, switches and more, while an opex model considers outsourcing the IT platform to a data center provider that offers ancillary services such as hosting, managed services and cloud configurations. By reviewing the capex vs. opex models with your client upfront, you can identify a plan that meets their requirements today and allows for scalability, growth and adoption of newer technologies in the future.

Emerging opportunities for the channel do not consist of just simple efforts to identify products. Knowing all aspects of your client’s business landscape will help you create a cohesive, robust client solution that solves business problems. When you position yourself as a business partner, not just a vendor, it results in a partnership that benefits both parties — including an increase in the revenue stream to you and your company and the added benefit of the customer becoming a long-term client, to boot.

Monty Reagan is vice president of channel sales for ViaWest .