Partner Focus: D-Link
IT Expert spoke to Andrew Mulholland, marketing manager at D-LINK, the networking equipment vendor, and asked this channel-focused company how it is winning business from the big names, and how it is boosting its channel programmes.
ITExpert: What are SMEs, in particular, looking for in their networking hardware?
Andrew Mulholland, D-LINK: We believe that SMEs are interested in three factors: the reliability of the equipment, ease of setup, and support.
The product must be hassle free, with a low cost of ownership. SMEs don’t have large technical teams to specify and maintain equipment. We focus on providing as much support as possible to our channel partners as well as to end users, so they have a positive experience before, during and after the sale.
In terms of technology, organisations are focusing more on ‘operational technology’. They are adding additional technologies to the network such as IP surveillance and IP telephony. That is driving demand, for example, for new PoE+ (Power over Ethernet) switches. The ratification of the Wireless N [Wi-Fi] standard has also stimulated a much more rapid take up for this technology in businesses.
ITE: Is networking just plumbing, or is there more to it than that? Why would an IT consultant argue in favour of a particular brand of networking, rather than simply the cheapest?
D-LINK: Networking is much more than just plumbing. It only takes the network to go down for chaos to ensue – no email, Internet, ability to store or access files, or in some cases even use the telephone. But we also have countless customer examples demonstrating the huge productivity gains of an efficient network. IT consultants should offer products that provide value for money but also more than just the minimum in terms of build quality, product features, services and support. But it can also be a mistake to offer the most expensive brands, who are charging over the odds for, essentially, a brand tag.
Organisations are looking at the more affordable, high-value brands. D-LINK is not the cheapest brand, but nor is it the most expensive. We aim to give customers a lot for their money.
ITE: What’s driving customers to upgrade their networks?
D-LINK: The key business drivers we are seeing are employee productivity, disaster recovery, security and the growth of mobile working. At the same time, the introduction of Wireless N, the increased focus on operational technology and the growth of virtualisation and storage have driven more organisations to upgrade. 10GbE and IPv6 are now everyday stipulations.
ITE: You developed a range you’ve called ‘Green Ethernet’ - has that been a success? [We looked at the first green network switch from D-LINK in volume 1, edition 2 – Ed]
D-LINK: Now rechristened D-LINK Green, this range covers almost our entire portfolio. As our green products offer the same performance and price point as those they replace, simply with lower power use, longer lifespan and higher reliability, uptake of the products has been good. In their first year we sold 80% more of these products globally than of the previous models.
ITE: Will customers pay a premium for a green product?
D-LINK: We don’t believe that customers should pay a premium for green products, and have invested a huge amount to ensure they don’t have to. As a result, SMEs and others that have traditionally been more concerned with their bottom line than their environmental credentials have been swift to embrace green technology.
ITE: You’ve also started to make inroads into the storage market. What’s your point of differentiation?
D-LINK: D-LINK is a networking business. Our storage offerings reflect this. Taking a wide view of the network means we can offer a complete networking solution and better value and support to partners and end users, with a single point of contact. We can provide from NAS to SANs, and from a single box to an entire integrated network.
ITE: How much of D-LINK’s business is through the channel?
D-LINK: D-LINK’s Business Solutions products are sold exclusively through the channel. The reason is simple: the channel is our lifeblood, with much greater reach, market knowledge and experience than we would be able to gain alone.
D-LINK’s Channel Initiatives
D-LINK has revamped its Partner+ programme to cater for partners of all levels, from entry-level to high-level VARs, which Andrew Mulholland says gives different partners the right services to suit their needs and lets them scale up as business grows. The Partner+ portal provides a variety of sales tools and support. And, he points out, “we have telephone-based account managers, so that partners always have instant access to a knowledgeable, useful contact”.
He says D-LINK also avoids making partners sign up to “unrealistic revenue commitments, meaning that resellers can do the business they need, without paying a premium for little return. D-LINK gives partners the best possible value for their investment.” Resellers of all sizes can take advantage of exclusive, upfront discounts of up to 10%.
D-LINK offers flexible purchasing solutions for its full range of business products, so you can offer customers a payment model that suits them. There is also a 0% payment plan for resellers selling to public sector organisations; a market that Mulholland points out “needs new equipment, but faces significant spending cuts”. The plan also includes incentive points for partners to reward their sales teams.