Value-added support

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IT Reseller spoke with Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of value-added distributor Wick Hill, about the company's 100 per cent dedicated channel ethos and about its total commitment to supporting current market opportunities for its VAR partners.
Established in 1976 and part of the Wick Hill Group, Wick Hill Ltd. is an award-winning value-added distributor with a channel-only model and a specific focus on delivering market growth for its vendor and VAR/reseller partners. The company specialises in secure IP infrastructure solutions and convergence, offering a portfolio that covers security, performance, access, networking, unified communications, cloud security and hosted solutions. "We're very much a market growth distributor," said Wick Hill's Ian Kilpatrick. "We look at where there is a need in the market, we provide solutions for that area and we grow it. Wick Hill likes to emphasise that it is very much a value-added distributor, providing strong all-round support for its VARs. We believe the way we differentiate ourselves from most distributors in our marketplace is by educating the market at the far end. For example, we wrote the guidelines for the Institute of Chartered Accountancy for Internet threats. We also wrote the National Computer Council's wireless access guidelines. And although Wick Hill is a distributor and never sells anything to the end-user, it creates market awareness in order for its vendor and channel partners to benefit."

Kilpatrick explained that the first type of messaging Wick Hill provides is totally educational; for example, 10 things you need to know before you go into the cloud, or five things you need to know before you connect to a wireless device. The next layer of messaging sets out to encourage greater solution awareness. "And by creating solution awareness and creating demand for these solutions we can then farm this interest back out to our partners," he said. "The awareness we create could be everything from convergence to networking and bandwidth."
Kilpatrick added that Will Hill is also geared to providing a high level of pre-sales support for its partners. "We can, for example, help them during the first couple of sales when selling new solutions," he pointed out. "We can even provide flexible credit to people who, in the credit insurance world, may be deemed to be too young, too small or even to be growing too fast. In this way we can help successful businesses to grow even quicker when their requirements are outside their credit limit." Kilpatrick added that Will Hill has a marketing team made up of 'real-world' professionals able to attract leads through seminars and campaigns, and help partners close leads as well as helping them to move forward with the project in hand. Training is also a high priority. The company has its own dedicated training suite and provides free product sales training to channel partners, as well as a range of technical courses. 

Smartphone security
On the topic of smartphones, Kilpatrick enthuses that there are substantial opportunities for VARs related to added levels of security. He points out that, in recent times, there has been substantial growth in smartphone (including Android) use, both for business and personal purposes, yet there remains little understanding of the security risks. This, believes Kilpatrick, is why the smartphone market can prove highly lucrative for VARs. "The topic of smartphones is so 'real-world' and a good conversation opener for a VAR when talking to a customer," he said. "Customers are likely to use smartphones, and it's not just smartphone security from a business perspective that can be discussed; as an individual, if the customer lost a smart phone, never mind the business implications, would he or she want to be able to track it or kill it in order to ensure all the information stored on it isn't accessible by someone else the answer is likely to be 'yes'."
Kilpatrick also points out that some 53 per cent of people don't even have a pin on their phone. "If I picked up their phone today I could access everything on it," he said. "And a VAR might wish to ask a customer the question 'would you connect to the Internet without antivirus on your home PC?' the answer is likely to be 'no'. Yet many smartphone users are connecting to the Internet without antivirus every day storing and accessing data, and sending out emails in a non-secure way. Essentially, says Kilpatrick, smartphones are often used in much the same way as a person would use a laptop, but without the same regard for reliable security measures. He adds that the next route many people are taking or looking to take is the smart tablet PC. "They've tried the smartphone and now think they can do even better with a tablet," he said. "However, security risks can become even bigger as people become more and more dependent on these devices. So there are certainly opportunities for VARs related to security here." 

Bandwidth hogs
From a data access and networking perspective, Kilpatrick maintains that the best way to improve bandwidth is not necessarily simply to add bigger pipes. "Other solutions such as WAN optimisation and traffic shaping can be less costly and more effective," he said. "There comes a point when many people think they'll just add more bandwidth, but actually some applications are completely impervious to this, so you end up with bandwidth hogs. It's a bit like the motorway; a lot of people think that the solution to increased traffic is to add extra lanes. But if you look at the M25 when they added variable speed limits many thought this isn't going to help. However, the reality was that the variable speed limits have been considerably effective in managing the traffic flow more effectively." Kilpatrick added that Wick Hill can provide support for the VAR's sales process related to WAN optimisation and traffic shaping when required. 

Security and virtualisation
Many VARs and end customers have gone down the virtualisation route, and understandably so. "The arguments for virtualisation are self-justifying," said Kilpatrick. "You can turn ten servers into one and save a fortune. Virtualisation is also easy to implement and it's easy to manage. So the case for it is cast-iron in this respect. However, adequate levels of security haven't followed this trend. When you had your ten servers in the data centre you may have had two or three different security policies and security structures around those, and maybe multiple firewalls too. Now, with virtualisation, you've maybe got them all in one. So if I can break in to the weakest supported server on a network and get admin rights over that server in the virtualised world I now have rights over maybe the other 95 that are on that same virtual server. So what you should do is what you would do in the 'normal' world you put different firewalls and different rules in front of different pieces of your network." Kilpatrick added that, for the VARs, there are opportunities here both in terms of firewalls and antivirus structures. "This isn't rocket science," he said, "it's merely catching up with the security elements around something that makes good commercial sense."


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