How One Florida VAR Became A Wireless Mesh Expert Overnight

Computer wireless

"We didn't know totally how to do this job," admitted Martin Haas, president and founder of the Entech. The solution provider called Tech Data, its primary distributor for a number of years, and hoped for the best. "In the past, they offered free pre-sales assistance, so we gave them a call," he said.

Entech's initial call Tech Data was routed to a product sales chempion within Tech Data's wireless specialized business unit, who then brought in Chris Antaya, a Proxim systems engineer for the distributor.

"Within 45 minutes, Chris sent me a jpeg with the layout of Sanibel Moorings from Google Earth with some equipment part numbers and a pre-site engineering survey," said Buddy Martin, general manager of Entech. "Within two hours, we understood what needed to be done."

"The main focus was to engage with the reseller, to get field experience and teach the reseller how to engage with the customer," Antaya said.

Sponsored post

Entech also needed help getting demo equipment to do a site survey and Tech Data and Proxim helped there too, Haas said.

Barb Miller, vice president of government, technical and integration services at the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor, said Tech Data's wireless SBU was designed to help VARs with this kind of opportunity.

"We have people in place, experts in wireless. They understand mesh networks, This was an opportunity for us to do hands on in the field. It's a great opportunity to demonstrate what we've learned. Chris came to us to say we have this VAR, this is what he wants to do. This is a great opportunity for them to learn the business."

Laura Monsrud, general manager of Sanibel Moorings, said her existing wireless infrastructure, based on residential class equipment, was a nightmare from the start.

"We had piecemealed it together. It started with an antenna here, a router there. The more people started to use it, we added here and there. It still wasn't keeping up with what we needed," she said.

"Our guests were complaining so much. We had advertised that we had wireless Internet, but in fact we were not providing it. We had to do something," Monsrud said.

Entech's team sat down with Monsrud and explained what the problem was and how a mesh system could solve the problem. Then came the price—$30,000. Of course, when you're dealing with small-business customers, there's bound to be some sticker shock to a $30,000 wireless solution. After all, you can put a wireless network at home for under $100, right?

"We've run into that a couple of times," Martin said. "Most people approach us prior to that, wanted a wireless quote and they're used to seeing a price of an access point for $65. You give them a quote of $30,000 and there's some disconnect there. But I have yet to see a working [residential class] wi-fi system down here [in a commercial environment]. Condo] communities are tired of losing money to communities that have wireless. They can't afford to do that anymore."

Said Monsrud, "It was a lot of money, but we have to provide the service for our guests. It's expected nowadays. I wishied it wouldn't have been that expensive, but you get what you pay for." Entech employs a "no surprises" pricing technique to prepare customers, Martin said. Clients fill out a questionnaire before Entech arrives and the solution provider then does a quick analysis of the site and provides a ballpark figure.

The questionairre and preliminary survey has helped cut the solution providers' costs. "If that doesn't scare them, then we make a date to do a detailed survey with a solid quote," Martin said.

Solution providers should educate customers that they will get what they pay for, Martin said. In the case of Sanibel Moorings, the property paid for a cheap system and struggled with it for a year and a half. "She was pretty much ready to pay when we got in there. The demand on her property was there. She knew she going to have to spend money to do it," Martin said. After the wireless mess solution was installed, one regular guest, who complained "15 times a day" about the lack of wireless, was very pleased, Monsrud said.

"Another guest was very pleased as he was checking out. He said it was very fast, a very nice amenity. That in and of itself is worth it," she said. "We felt that by having our residential set upt hat people were doing just the opposite. They'd say, 'the heck with that place. We'll stay in a place that has good Internet.' I can now comfortably say that we can provide wireless Internet," she said.

After the Sanibel Moorings project was completed, Entech pitched the local paper on its work and a story ended up on the front page of the business section. Within a week, Entech got phone calls from five other condo communities that wanted the same work done. "Sanibel is a close knit community. It's a vacation community but the people managing properties, everyone knows everyone," Martin said. "Currently we're working on four quotes pending, all the result of the word of mouth and press releases. And we have two more quite big ones we need to scope out."

All of a sudden, Entech was a wireless mesh expert. "The stories we're hearing are something. Another potential customer told us they had a technician come out who spent a month putting up antennas that never worked. He ended up taking them all down and leaving without charging them anything," Martin said. "You have to know what you're doing. You need the right equipment."

Entech's Martin Haas said that with uncertain economic times, it's time to think outside the box. "What we did, what Proxim did, what Tech Data did, was create a good working relationship with endless potential. It's only because everyone joined. We had the manufacturer, distributor and reseller all involved on the same page, pitching in to the same end," Haas said.