A few months ago, StoreVault did not even exist.

The company came into being after Network Appliance, a storage appliance vendor based in Sunnyvale, Calif. known for catering its solutions to the enterprise, decided that it needed a different approach to reach SMBs (small and midsize businesses).

The company came up with an application, the StoreVault S500, for companies that had less than $20,000 in their IT budget to spend on storage solutions. In addition, NetApp decided to create a new and separate business unit—also called StoreVault.

With a new business also came a new channel strategy. In wanting to focus on SMBs, the new company decided it would keep its channel strategy separate from the model that it used to sell the larger and more expensive NetApp products to the enterprise.

“What we wanted overall was a very robust channel program and we wanted to keep it simple,” said Sajai Krishnan, the general manager of StoreVault’s business unit.

“We wanted to be able to go in there quickly and install the product. We also wanted to keep it separate from the enterprise side.”

Click here to read more about the launch of StoreVault.

The times now seem right for companies to focus products and their channel energy on providing SMBs with storage solutions.

In an Oct. 19 study issued by the Gartner research firm, more than 70 percent of SMBs worldwide predicted that their storage budgets for hardware, software and services would increase in 2007.

Of those surveyed, 55 percent reported that the biggest storage issue facing them is the growing capacity demands on their business. On average, SMBs predicted that their capacity demands would increase by 25 percent in the next year.

In the first few months of StoreVault—June to November—the company managed to recruit about 200 VARs into its channel program, while using Tech Data of Clearwater, Fla., as its distributor.

Of those, about 80 percent are new to the StoreVault product but have experience with SMBs, Krishnan said. The rest are NetApp’s VARs who have retrained to sell the company’s SMB solution.

Sunstar Company, a VAR based in Inglewood, Calif., was one of the first companies to sign up as a StoreVault partner.

The company had never used NetApp products before but knew about the reputation of its products and decided to join, Gavin Rosenberg, Sunstar’s marketing director, told Channel Insider.

Click here to read more about how customers should approach their storage problems.

SMBs are not only looking for more storage solutions, Rosenberg said, but these businesses are looking for quality products. StoreVault has been a success so far in delivering both, Rosenberg added.

“It has been good for us right across the board,” Rosenberg said, adding that his company has been able to make margins as high as 25 point on sales.

“Companies are looking for a name brand storage solution and this is a very robust product that sells within a reasonable price range.”

One surprising part about the StoreVault offering is that Sunstar has been able to sell the products to large companies that are seeking a good priced storage solution, Rosenberg said.

In addition, Rosenberg thinks StoreVault’s channel model will work since it has developed a fairly easy way to order product from the company and that since the program started “there has been no degradation” in the product’s price.

Krishnan said StoreVault wanted to keep the SMB channel model simple, not only by using SMB-centric VARs, but also by keeping the product simple.

Click here for exclusive channel research from Amazon Consulting.

The StoreVault product, for example, uses the same technology as the enterprise-class NetApp solutions but adds a Microsoft Windows application on top to keep the data management more streamlined for SMB customers.

StoreVault also offered specialized training and programs that helped VARs concentrate solely on SMBs. The result, Krishnan said, allows these smaller companies to have a chance to buy an enterprise product from a VAR who understands their needs.

“The SMB market should not have to take a back seat to enterprise,” Krishnan said.