Firewall Solution Gets Integrator In The Door
Integrator EDS saves a car dealership nearly $9,000 per year with a new secure Internet solution.
When building their business, many VARs will first select a product and then look for a market to sell into. Lori Miller, information specialist senior for integration giant Electronic Data Systems (EDS) (Plano, TX), did things a little differently. Miller performs hardware and software systems integration in the automotive retail market. In speaking with auto dealers, Miller became aware of a need that existed, and then found a product to address that need.
One of those dealers, Villa Marin Pontiac-Buick-GMC-Cadillac, was experiencing growing pains related to Internet access. "I realized they needed more than a communication line," said Miller. "They needed tools to better manage and control their business."
Many of Miller's clients have Web sites, but do not have access to the Internet. A problem arises when companies they work with require that access. Large manufacturers like Ford and GM, as well as credit companies and state licensing offices, were moving their applications to the Web. Employees needing to access those applications had to have Internet accounts.
A $15,000 A Year Internet Bill
Auto dealers that already had Internet access were facing a different problem - cost and control. Villa Marin had 25 employees accessing the Internet. Each employee had an individual dial-up account from various ISPs (Internet service providers). Each account was costing the dealership money. "A phone line in a dealership costs about $30 a month," noted Miller. "For 25 people, that works out to $750 per month. If all of the employees were using AOL (America Online) at a cost of $20 each, that's another $500 per month. So, the Internet accounts were costing Villa Marin $15,000 per year."
Managing those accounts was also a nightmare. There were employees using AOL, Earthlink, and other Internet services. Whenever a new employee was added, Villa Marin purchased Internet service for that employee from the ISP that had the best deal at the time. Furthermore, when employees left the dealership, their account information would go with them. This meant the dealership could potentially lose customers that happened to e-mail the account of a past employee.
Add Internet Security And Decrease User Access Times
One of the first recommendations Miller makes for customers like Villa Marin is to install a firewall to protect internal data. But, a firewall is just part of the solution. Based on previous experiences with car dealerships, Miller has assembled an entire package solution for these types of customers. "We searched for a product that could do all of the things we were looking for," she said. Based on our research, we landed on the InstaGate EX2 from eSoft." The InstaGate EX2 is an Internet appliance. In addition to its firewall capability, InstaGate will also cache Web pages that are frequently used, thereby decreasing user access times. "Customers don't usually ask for the caching capability, but they definitely notice the difference once it is installed," she said. InstaGate also has virtual private network (VPN) capability, allowing employees to use the Internet to securely access their company's network from home, rather than dialing into the network via a modem. Finally, InstaGate features print services and a hard drive for shared file space within the dealership. "A shared drive is new technology to most of these guys," added Miller. "It has a big 'wow' factor."
According to Miller, InstaGate allows her to tailor the product to the project's needs. Since going back onsite can be expensive, InstaGate's add-on SoftPak applications are available via download from the Internet. The SoftPaks add functions such as Web mail, spam filtering, Web site filtering, and e-mail anti-virus.
Gain Recurring Revenue With A Service Model Approach
Today, Villa Marin has 46 employees accessing the Internet via a 50-user license. The company pays less than $300 per month for one broadband communication line. EDS charges customers based on a service model approach. Customers sign a contract, pay $325 up front, and then pay EDS a $175 monthly fee. The fee covers training, onsite installation, and help desk support. The benefit to Villa Marin is a much lower cost, streamlined management, and better control. "The company controls who can access each account," said Miller. "If an employee leaves, their e-mail can be forwarded to another employee."
Installing the solution was simple. A communication line plugs into InstaGate, which is about the size of a laptop computer. InstaGate is then connected to the hub of the dealership's LAN (local area network). If there are no problems, the entire installation can be done in about 20 minutes. There is also about 10 minutes of set up required on each computer in the dealership. Miller will typically train the system administrator, who will then train the rest of the employees.
Sell The Benefits, Not The Product
Miller has found that most objections to this type of solution revolve around the price. She believes VARs need to sell customers on the business value of the solution. "The objections come when customers don't understand how InstaGate will fit into their business," explained Miller. "Instead of pitching the hardware to them, we sell them on the value of the product. We determine their business needs and then talk in terms of those needs. Customers are looking at this as simply another piece of hardware. VARs need to explain to them why they need to have the hardware."
She also cautions that the most common area resellers can lose money is in support. "Be very clear in what is included and what is not," she warned. "Customers will call you every time their service is down, no matter what the problem. They just like having one number to call. Make sure they are aware of what is your responsibility and what is not."