Partners Divided Over CA's New Internet Security Channel Program

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Specifically, CA's Internet Security Business Unit's new channel program, titled "More Security. Less Cost. Completely Installed," aimed at its business-to-business product lineup, offers customers HIPS free with the purchase or renewal of CA Threat Manager.

The new channel program also includes free remote installation and configuration of CA B2B Internet security products, conducted by a CA remote deployment services team responsible for both ripping out existing IT infrastructure and replacing it with the CA Internet security products. The Internet security product lines include Threat Manager, HIPS, Total Defense, antivirus, antispyware and Gateway Security.

Executives say that the rollouts come in response to the lagging economy and the high cost of installation and maintenance fees, which have often served to deter many small businesses from replacing or upgrading new Internet security equipment, CA executives say.

"We talk about the first 24 hours being the most important. The customer is out here in this struggling time. When they buy the software, a lot of [expenses involve] getting it deployed and installed," said Chris Hickey, vice president of sales and marketing for CA's Internet Security Business Unit. "We're going to take all those soft costs out."

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Hickey said that correctly installing and ensuring that products are fully functional would reduce the number of support calls customers made while improving overall customer satisfaction. It also would free up customers' IT staffs for other critical projects and reduce the hassle and stress of product installations, Hickey added. In turn, customers would be more likely to renew their licenses, which would ultimately benefit partners who rely on recurring revenue streams.

"SMBs, like medical and lawyers' offices, don't have IT staff. Our challenge has always been to make sure that [IT equipment] is set up correctly, that the policies are set and they know how to use it," Hickey said. "If we do that right, the money will come in when we get the renewal."

Some CA channel partners applauded the company's new rollouts.

"I think that's dead on," said Jeb Carter, president of Dallas-based DefenderSoft. "Basically it ensures that out of the gate you're going to be a happy customer."

Carter said that some of the biggest reasons for customer attrition stemmed from hassles and mistakes related to product installation and configuration.

"One of the biggest gripes for customers is that when they first install [a product], they don't get done with it, or do it wrong, and it just sits there," Carter said. "I think anything you can do to add value to the end-user experience when they come on board is important and ensures greater customer satisfaction."

Carter declined to speculate on whether the promotion was in response to declining CA sales in the SMB, but said that the company was "doing what it can not to lose market share."

However, despite the added value, some partners say that the rollouts could be a "kick in the teeth" to service-based VARs, while other service-based solution providers expressed doubt that CA's new channel rollouts would actually benefit its channel.

One California-based partner, who asked to remain off the record, questioned the feasibility of CA's promotion and whether its service installation team would displace installation services provided by the channel as it competed for the same business.

"Who's going to do the free service? That sounds like outsourcing to me," he said. "I don't know how they can cost-effectively do it. And that's competing with channel services business."

The partner contended that recurring revenue from subscription renewals was valuable but constituted a small fraction of a service VAR's total business.

"We're a service company and like most VARs, that's where we make our money," he said. "The knee-jerk reaction is that [these rollouts] compete with the very VARs they want supporting them. What's left for the VAR?"