Support and Maintenance—The cost of support should follow industry expectations of 12 to 18 percent each year for a comprehensive support contract. Many three-year contracts sold to customers may not include “diagnostics,” which determine the source of the problem. Costs should include everything inside the appliance and under one agreement, too. Diagnostic support defines the appliance offering. To diagnose means to root out the source of the problem, from software to hardware, and then proceed to fix that for the customer.
Positioning—Backup and data protection are sold in so many ways and with so many flavors today that positioning an appliance against competing backup appliances has become a huge, complicated endeavor. Appliance manufacturers should offer a features/benefits line-up including robust technologies, easy-to-use operations and head-to-toe support that can help buyers size up the competition.
Financial factors—The mix of return on investment and cost of ownership (ROI and COO) with backup still leads the buying decisions. Due to the breadth of licensing options and long-term, heterogeneous scalability, appliances can offer various pricing options. While customers praise the one-price elegance of the appliance, more financial benefits actually exist in the long-term ownership than the initial cost savings.
Quoting and configuration—Appliances strive to expand both capabilities and technologies into their architecture and implementation, while simplifying the finished product as it fits into increasingly complex environments. The configuration and quote experience counts toward a customer’s decision-making. The better solutions simplify the process through the expertise and assistance of well-trained representatives and resellers.
Licensing options—Customers with few machines and a lot of data do not want license pricing based upon customers with numerous machines and smaller amounts of data. Virtual machines crammed into one huge server should not be priced the same as one O/S on a similarly sized server. The offering of license options is an important part of the backup appliance consideration. The customer needs both machine-based and capacity licensing, and even more options.
Day in the life of an administrator—While the purchase of an enterprise backup appliance may seem to focus on price and features, the deciding factor often results from the efficiency and flow of operations. Management and operators look for how the appliance assists them in getting their jobs done and how practical the appliance accomplishes those tasks.
Model options—Not all customers are alike, and while the engine of the appliances may be the same, and even the hardware parts are similar, the implementation and licensing can be designed to fit differing customer expectations. Appliances that offer enterprise options for the larger companies will provide better scalability than small, departmental build-on appliances.
The software engine of an appliance defines the breadth of an offering at only one level. Use these other parameters to help decide which one fits you or your customer best.
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