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Bell Micro is ramping up its Security Division, formed in November 2008, with new vendors and a focus on helping solution providers maintain high margins and deliver holistic security solutions and services.

Duncan Hume, who headed up Bell Micro’s United Kingdom security division and who serves as director for the North American security division, says the new division was built on the foundation of Bell Micro’s security success in the UK as well as an awareness that, for all its solution providers strength in the storage marketplace, the security element in North America was sorely lacking.

“We’ve been selling the burgers and not the fries, so to speak,” Hume told Channel Insider in a 2008 interview. “In other words, we’ve been selling storage but not the ability to ensure that stored data is secure, remains confidential and maintains its integrity.”

Hume said then that his intention was to build a robust but selective portfolio of security solutions and introduce those as complementary and supplementary offerings to Bell Micro’s community of storage solution providers.

The ‘complementary’ approach is key to a successful security practice that can drive up-selling opportunities and incremental revenue for solution providers, Hume says. Threats and attacks are bombarding organizations from all angles, but many solution providers make the mistake of favoring a “Band-Aid” approach rather than taking a more holistic view of customers’ infrastructure security needs.

“Security encompasses a huge amount of subject matter – it’s controlling access to the Internet using SSL VPNs and firewalls. It’s e-mail security and encryption. It’s two-factor authentication. There’s the basics of data theft, data loss prevention; not to mention antivirus, antispam,” Hume says.

The holistic approach to security is becoming evident even in the vendor community, as mergers between security and storage heavyweights like EMC and RSA, Veritas and Symantec pool their resources, says Hume. Even if solution providers have limited experience with security on its own, they can leverage their experience selling products and services that require security solutions to protect them, like storage or networking.

To help educate Bell Micro’s solution providers, Hume says his focus remains on expanding education, training and current industry data. To that end, Bell Micro not only includes product information on the division’s web site, but also includes industry presentations, a tips and tricks section, opinion pieces and news articles that solution providers can use to make a business case for the solutions they sell.

Customers, Hume says, are less interested in the ‘speeds and feeds’ around particular solutions than the business benefits, both in terms of security and employee productivity. A solution provider selling a content filtering solution, for example, can stress the ability to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic as well as ensure that employees are being as productive as possible while at work.

“It’s like air conditioning in a car in that it’s a bit of a mystery actually, but I know that I need it, and I know what the benefit is,” Hume says. “I know it’s a really useful technology even if I don’t understand all the intricacies of how it works,” he says.

Hume says the holistic approach is working, and the distributor has added a number of new vendors to its linecard that not only address customers’ security issues, but solve business problems and help solution providers maintain profitable businesses in a challenging economy.

“We have a very careful rationale behind the product selections and our suppliers,” Hume says. “We feel there are so many vendors who are overdistributed, and that leads to price wars and margin depression for our solution providers,” he says.

Therefore, Hume says Bell Micro has deliberately chosen ‘alternative’ vendors who are extremely channel-friendly and are focused on making sure solution providers make very good margins.

Hume says Bell Micro also plans initiatives to help solution providers capitalize on the growing need for managed security services and consulting. This includes security audits, penetration testing and other security services, he says.

These include antivirus vendor F-Secure, Clearswift for e-mail management, Barracuda for e-mail archiving and compliance, Cyberroam’s unified threat management solution, Basco and Netilla, for authentication and SSL VPN, respectively and content filtering vendor Bloxx, among others, says Hume.

Hume says the distributor will continue to add new vendors and solutions as the division grows. He adds that, even in a time of economic uncertainty, the need for security savvy solution providers will continue to increase.

“The difficulties we’re all facing encourages organizations to think more carefully about how they are securing their business in the broadest sense,” he says.