Buffalo Pushes Into Small-Business Channel


The Japan-based wireless vendor Monday plans to launch its first U.S. channel program, part of an increasing reliance on VARs to bring in customers and build brand awareness stateside.

To accomplish that, the company is creating a tiered program with increasing up-front discounts based on sales volume. The program also comes with training programs, demo equipment discounts, market development funds and a reseller council, said Erny-Jay Mezas, director of sales at Buffalo, which has U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas.

The company already has some 500 integrators that sell its products in the United States, but it has no formal relationship with them, Mezas said.

In addition to the formal channel program, Buffalo's product line will continue to evolve for solution providers, said Morikazu Sano, vice president of product marketing at the wireless vendor. The company plans to release in the next two quarters products available exclusively to VARs, he said.

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Storage will be a major focus of those offerings. Indeed, Buffalo expects U.S. sales of its LinkStation and TeraStation NAS products to jump to $35 million this year from $6.5 million in 2004. "Storage is really hot," Sano said. "The business is growing rapidly."

As it rolls out its channel, Buffalo also is looking to expand the breadth of its partner base. The company is hoping to lure in a new class of SMB-focused VARs that can take its higher-end products into businesses with 100 or fewer employees, Sano said. With a terabyte of storage priced at less than $1,000, Buffalo's TeraStation NAS device, already popular with "prosumers," is a natural for small businesses as well, he said. A new version of the product, slated for a January release, will be beefed up with small businesses in mind.

Larry Fatheree, CEO of Systech Systems and Services in Raleigh, N.C., said he already is using Buffalo's wireless products in some small-business projects. "We are increasing our focus on Buffalo because we are impressed with what they have," Fatheree said. "They have a very robust wireless solution that fits very well with what small businesses need."

In an installation at a local warehouse, Fatheree said Buffalo won out over other similarly priced wireless products because it supports multilevel repeating, he said. "We were able to do the job with Buffalo for about $5,000," he said. "The same job with Cisco wireless products would have been $12,000 to $20,000."

Fatheree added that he hasn't seen Buffalo's storage products yet, but given his experience with its wireless products, he plans to test them out. "I will definitely take a look a their storage products because I am impressed with their technology based on what they've done in wireless," he said. "If that same engineering skill has been put into the NAS product, that is something I want to know about."