Sailing The Stormy Storage Seas

NavigateStorage offers help to SMBs via backup, recovery solutions

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James Addlesberger runs NavigateStorage, a small storage integration firm that specializes in backup and recovery. With just a handful of people working for him, mostly on a contract basis, he is hoping to pull in a record $1.5 million in revenue this year. For Addlesberger, who is attending CMP Media's XChange '04 conference here this week, running a small business has its pros and cons.

And certainly Addlesberger would know. In addition to serving as president of Nipson Printing Systems, he's worked for large organizations including IBM, Nixdorf and Hitachi Data Systems, where he's had as many as a thousand people reporting to him at one time. As vice president of worldwide marketing at Hitachi Data Systems, he dined with CIOs of some of the world's largest corporations. And back in the day, he was Sam Palmisano's boss, when the IBM chairman and CEO was a sales rep in Washington and Addlesberger was the regional sales manager.

"We were an Amdahl fighting unit," Addlesberger recalled.

Now, as owner of his small company, Addlesberger is the fighting unit. When something needs to get done, chances are Addlesberger does it himself. "The good news is when I want something done, it takes a day," he said. "When I had 1,000 people reporting to me, the same things would take three months to get done."

He's put that initiative to good use--since founding NavigateStorage in 1999, Addlesberger has cultivated accounts along the Eastern seaboard, from Vermont to Florida.

Addlesberger started the Concord, Mass.-based company, which was dedicated to reselling LSI storage products, at the height of the tech boom and grossed more than $1 million in his first year. But then the tech bubble burst and LSI got out of the business of selling its wares through the channel, switching to a pure OEM model.

NavigateStorage switched gears and began offering StorageTek's D Series, as well as some of IBM's FastT products and, more recently, storage products from Silicon Graphics. "Their storage is LSI in sheep's clothing," Addlesberger said.

Today, his company functions as a VAR focused squarely on backup and recovery. And unlike some storage VARs that have exclusive ties with just one or a small handful of vendors, NavigateStorage will offer a customer anything it wants. That includes technology from EMC, StorageTek, IBM, Adaptec, Brocade and QLogic, as well as smaller companies such as Avamar, Unitrends and Educom. He recently added e-mail and instant-messaging archiving to his service offerings, partnering with Educom and Facetime, respectively.

At last year's XChange event in Orlando, Fla., Addlesberger met up with Dantz, a provider of backup software targeted at implementations with up to 25 servers. These days his company sells on average a half-dozen Dantz installations a week.

"They have paid the rent and kept the lights running," he said.

Addlesberger admits the storage integration business has had its ups and downs. Last year he lost money, but this year he anticipates he will be profitable.

Had he started a few years before the downturn, Addlesberger believes he would have gotten off to a better start. His first sale in 1999 was so profitable he was able to buy a Jaguar. "The bad news, though, is I still have the same Jag," he said.

If he meets his business objectives this year, will he get a new one? "I don't think so, but hopefully next year," he said.

The past month notwithstanding, Addlesberger is hopeful the recovery is here to stay. He plans to remain focused on backup and recovery, although companies only back up on average 25 percent to 30 percent of their data, he said. "It blows my mind."

Although his path as owner of a storage services firm has gone much differently than planned, Addlesberger enjoys running NavigateStorage. "In essence, what I really am is salesman," he said. "I enjoy that and I always have enjoyed that. I'm having more fun than ever."

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