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D-Link, primarily known for its network switches and routers in the consumer market, may be coming to an office near you. Actually, it may already be there and you don’t even know it.

As many as 12 percent of businesses with 1,000 or more employees say they use D-Link equipment in their WLAN (wireless LAN), according to a December 2004 survey of IT administrators by In-Stat Market Research.

But the Fountain Valley, Calif., networking vendor has had trouble shaking the home network image among VARs and consumers, who equate the company only with its low-end wireless routers, say D-Link staff and VARs.

John DiFrenna, D-Link’s vice president of channel sales, wants to recast that image as he moves the company upstream toward bigger markets and ultimately making the company a dominant business network provider.

“Our legacy has been in the consumer space, but we are and have been for years a major player in the business market,” DiFrenna said. “Worldwide we are known as a business-class provider of switches and routers, not home networking. … We need to increase the knowledge of end users, and thus the VARs, to the D-Link product line, so wireless switches, storage and cameras, all of those things need to come to the forefront of the end users’ mind when they think D-Link.”

Establishing the company among VARs as a name in business networking is just one of the tasks facing DiFrenna, who was named to his post just this week, as he refocuses the vendor’s channel to move the company toward larger businesses.

DiFrenna also faces challenges of improving the company’s support structure and interaction with VARs, which he intends to initiate immediately by doubling the number of outside channel representatives, call center personnel and field engineers; increasing outside and Web-based training for salespeople and technicians; and adding price incentives, especially for higher volume VARs.

But the branding issue remains the vendor’s most pressing concern among channel resellers.

“I’ve been confident enough to purchase some of their higher volume products,” said Norman Black, president of Contemporary Computer Systems Inc., of Davie, Fla., who regularly uses D-Link’s low-end solutions for SOHO (small office/home office) clients. “But it’s somewhat psychological with the bigger products. With other products, Linksys, the client gets the Cisco name on the hardware. It has that technology and the brand behind it. D-Link has a marketing fight on its hands.”

Cisco Systems Inc. bought Linksys last year and turned the former home-network vendor into a force in small-business (under 25 employees) networking. The same In-Stat survey in December 2004 found that 32 percent of enterprise businesses reported using Linksys for their WLAN hardware.

D-Link, DiFrenna said, doesn’t even see itself competing with Linksys. Illustrating the branding deficit, D-Link products, such as the company’s 48-port switches, exceed the capacity of the entire Linksys line, he said.

But progress has been made already, DiFrenna said. The number of VARs serving business networks quadrupled this year, and the groundwork has been laid for the support network serving the community.

“We’re looking to lay down a footprint in the industry and build from there,” he said. “We want to be the dominant name in the business space. We’re in this for the long haul.”

The main factors in shoring up VAR backing as it moves toward that end, Black said, will be price and support.

“Sometimes you just go where the dollar is,” he said. “Price and the support that comes with it; the whole package will decide what they are able to do in the business market.”

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