Selling Wireless Technology? Sell Security, Too
The world of wireless technology continues to expand. But VARs won't benefit from this trend unless they offer wireless security.
Wireless security is no longer merely a quick discussion point for VARs when reviewing a prospective customer's business and technology requirements. Progressive VARs are realizing that WLAN (wireless LAN) security is a major consideration when evaluating all or part of an enterprise solution. Understanding this, VARs need to embrace the opportunity - not shrink from the challenge. Simply bundling a security product with their solution no longer meets the market's expectations. Providing fundamental value-added security solutions and technical services demonstrates additional value to prospective customers.
"VARs reluctant to re-position their solutions with integrated WLAN security solutions will find their sales-closing ratio heading in the wrong direction," said Norm Dumbroff, CEO of wireless distributor WAV, Inc., at a recent WAV WLAN security conference. "Today's technology sales cycle clearly establishes that secure solutions are a requirement - not an option - in order to retain the expected percentage of successful wins in the extremely competitive VAR marketplace."
Best Wireless Markets: Retail, Financial, Healthcare
Although WLAN security solutions have become fundamental requirements to conduct business, VARs need to avoid bombarding prospective customers with a multitude of products that may not address their specific needs. Implementing robust security solutions is key to ensuring that customer enterprises are integrated with measures to protect core business areas such as the LAN/WAN (wide area network) and SAN (storage area network). Organizations have unique security challenges that can only be discovered by assessing individual needs and offering a more consultative sales role. VARs taking this consultative posture will succeed in satisfying more customers and increasing both wireless security product and services revenues.
Vertical markets have embraced and now require WLAN security solutions to be included in the planning and implementation of their networking solutions. Specifically, the retail, financial, and healthcare markets are faced with increasing competition for the consumer's dollar. New wireless solutions offer technologies that adapt quickly and affordably to changing business needs but also put data at serious risk unless measures are taken to restrict user access. These security measures need to protect wireless transmissions from eavesdropping, spoofing (forgery of an e-mail header so that the message appears to have been generated elsewhere), and other methods of intrusion.
New Wireless Encryption Standards
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) defines wireless LAN standards, commonly referred to as 802.11, for encrypting data that is transmitted wirelessly. (Data encryption prevents eavesdropping by other wireless network users.) In most cases, the standard 802.11 security mechanism, called wired equivalent privacy (WEP), did not meet the needs of enterprise wireless IT managers. WEP has been proven to have significant flaws that make it inadequate for securing enterprise environments.
As a result, the Wi-Fi Alliance has developed Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) as the effective standard for WLAN security. With WPA, an environment having many types of 802.11 radio network interface cards (NICs) can benefit from enhanced forms of encryption. WPA is derived from the new 802.11i WLAN security standard.
In summary, the term "value-added reseller" has never been a more appropriate description in the technology sales industry. Consultative guidance in the WLAN security area has and will continue to be required to successfully sell and implement wireless solutions in today's vertical markets. Developing WLAN security competencies in a VAR's technical and sales staffs has become a key differentiator among the VAR community. VARs that embrace the opportunity and accept the challenge will be rewarded with increased revenues from a very satisfied and growing stable of customers.