I Didn’t Know Dell Did That: SMBs and Networking

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One of the most valuable assets Dell has in house that you might not know about is our Enterprise Technologists group (ET). They are a team of technical experts, with 20+ years of real world industry experience who advise small and medium-sized businesses on how to leverage a variety of technologies for their business. They have expertise in areas from virtualization to cloud, systems management to security.  The ETs work with business owners to strategize and collaborate on how technology solutions can be used to help reach business and financial goals- sometimes faster and often more efficiently.

This is a FREE service that Dell offers as part of the value add we enjoy bringing to our existing and potential Dell customers.

We talked to one of our SMB ETs, Pat Woodward to share more about the program.

Q: Pat, can you tell me more about your role on the enterprise technologist team?

A: Of course. I am a Dell enterprise technologist and my key area of expertise is networking. I focus on understanding the business challenges that are unique to SMBs to get a better understanding of where they want to be and how we can help them get there. The primary question I ask myself is, “how can we leverage technology to help them succeed, grow and achieve their business goals long term?” It’s about focusing first and foremost on being an advocate for the customer.

I don’t go into customer meetings to pitch products, rather to educate them on the necessary solutions and technologies for their IT environments. It’s a conversation centered on “what should I do about this?” rather than “how much does this cost?”

Q: Can you share an example of how you helped an SMB with their IT networking needs?

A: A European VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service provider was having trouble with their networking, which unfortunately led to dropped calls for their customers.  As an enterprise technologist, I was brought in to assess the IT situation and make the best recommendations. In this specific scenario, I had to fix the existing network before we could actually upgrade them to a better network. Once I was able to explain why they were getting the failures, I provided a fix to the dropped calls, and shifted our focus onto the new environment. I provided best practices and network design to get them on the right track. We helped them look 2-3 years down the line to make sure the new infrastructure would accommodate their customers’ need for video in addition to voice.  I also provided the requirements to one of our partners that would install and configure the new infrastructure to ensure the network would work as promised.  As a result, we were able to provide a reliable architecture that could be replicated at other sites as they continued to grow their business.

Q: What is one of the pain points you’re consistently hearing from SMBs when it comes to networking?

A: The biggest issue around networking is the absence of onsite expertise or hands-on experience with networking technologies. With the IT support they do have, they’re generalists and tend to know very little about switches and networking. It’s usually the storage or server guy that assumes the networking responsibility.

Q: What are you most surprised to hear that they are or aren’t doing when it comes to networking?

A: Virtual local area networks, also known as VLANs, offer a way of dividing one physical networking into multiple broadcast domains. I am always surprised to see SMBs not seeing the potential of VLANs, one of the most fundamental designs of the switch. Many customers do not understand why they have problems they are having with the storage devices affecting their production network. The entire network doesn’t have to feel the pain with the logical separation that VLANs offer. With VLANs, some the benefits that SMBs can see include flexibility, improved change management and increase security capabilities.

Since some onsite IT support don’t have the skill set or understand the value that VLANs bring, Dell offers Professional Services to go in and do it for them. As an enterprise technologist, I’ll build it into their plan, but it’s going to take someone to go onsite and build it out. Dell provides this service.

Q: What Dell capabilities around networking are SMBs most surprised to hear?

A: The fact of the matter is SMBs are still learning the importance of networking. When it comes to the other areas I focus on as a technologist, customers approach me with a problem that I can easily help find a solution for. With networking, they come with a problem and I have to explain the importance of networking before helping them with a solution – it’s a necessary extra step.

After I’ve educated customers on networking, SMBs are surprised about the breadth of networking products Dell offers such as true data center switches, network security and wireless. In the past, SMBs haven’t looked at Dell as a network provider. But as they learn more and I have the opportunity to open the door to Dell’s networking capabilities, they’ll stick with Dell. They didn’t realize they could previously expand their capabilities with us. It’s a great feeling when a customer comes away saying, “I didn’t know Dell did that but I’m sure glad they do.

About the Author: Ingrid Vanderveldt

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