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4. Make It Simple And Reliable: Data center technology continues to refresh and evolve. Yet, more and more, solution providers are finding that there are two constants that hold irresistible appeal for data center customers: operational continuity and reduced complexity, which is why VARs identified them as their top two selling points, respectively, when it comes to data center solutions.
Customers rely on their data centers to provide maximum uptime, yet they need simplified management of data center resources so they can easily keep everything in check, so they are looking to solution providers to manage various technologies, including blade servers, virtualization and shared storage, while continuing to reduce costs and ensure constant uptime.
"Over the years, we've seen the growing trend of bringing in systems to manage systems to manage systems," said Philip Alfrey, director of business development for Solid Networks Inc., a Modesto, Calif.-based solution provider. "Customers are asking solution providers, 'How do you manage and maintain technology with the least amount of people and [least amount of] other technology?'"
For Alfrey, as well as other solution providers, the pendulum is swinging toward fewer systems and better management.
"There's been a collapse in large IT organizations that used to be able to maintain a separate staff for storage and [a separate staff for] networking, for example," Alfrey said. "Companies aren't able to do that anymore. That makes continuity and reduced complexity of solutions more important."
5. Lock It Down: No company, big or small, wants to become a victim of a data breach, which makes security a crucial component of data center maintenance. Surveyed solution providers saw security as the No. 2 challenge customers face in operating and maintaining their data centers, second only to budgetary concerns.
Partners said that some of the biggest security threats to data center security stem from insiders -- disgruntled or laid-off employees -- or outsourced third parties, who abuse access to critical information. Meanwhile, the problem of locking down data is even more acute for smaller customers, which typically don't have the resources or staff to implement comprehensive security measures.
"The Fortune 50 can focus on one guy for Exchange Server security," said Daniel Duffy, CEO of Fresno, Calif.-based Valley Network Solutions. "In the SMB, they don't always have [the right] options available to them. There are just so many things vying for attention."
To overcome those challenges, solution providers recommend that companies classify and prioritize the critical data that needs the most protection, and then start investing in data loss prevention and data logging products. And in light of tightening budgets, solution providers increasingly are rolling out managed vulnerability scanning and monitoring services to increase response time and cut costs.
"A lot of companies, if they had their druthers, wouldn't spend on upgrades at all until the market turns, but many are obligated by law to take corrective action," said Tim Carney, CEO of Fremont, Calif.-based NetworkGuys. "Managed services is an area where we see a lot of growth, and we're jumping on it with both feet."
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