Lanvision may not be a name most resellers recognise. In fact, until last year the distributor had focused its business on hubs and high-end switches and maintained a small and specialised national reseller base of only six.
This will change, however, as Lanvision is seeking resellers interested in its new portfolio of products - Web security and productivity software and services.
Lanvision began six years ago as a wholly owned division of reseller Starcom, importing Networth hubs and Legato software. With the acquisition of Networth by Compaq last year, Lanvision went in search of other products to distribute. It came back with a firewall product called GNAT Box, and WebSENSE Internet screening software and service.
Both marketing manager Ursula Ruthmann and national sales manager Charles Heunemann categorise Lanvision as a boutique distributor: specialising in certain market areas and aiming to highly service those areas.
"We've always had products which are probably more boutique style which require expertise and support. Our company philosophy is based on support, integrity and providing excellent service - our engineers spend a lot of time training," Ruthmann said.
Citing Lanvision's background with Starcom as a major benefit to building its business, Heunemann said: "Being a reseller, we understood what a reseller needed from a vendor or a distributor. We don't say that we have the formula 100 per cent correct, but we figured if we didn't do all the things that our vendors did that annoyed us, then we'd be half-way there.
"We came down to two aspects: that we had to provide a product that was very good and gave very clear technological advantage in the market-place so that customers would be interested in it.
"We also had to set it up in a way that whoever became our reseller could make money out of it as well and they wouldn't be beaten about the head on price, which is what happens in this industry," Heunemann said.
Heunemann says GNAT Box fits this formula. It is a simple Web security firewall product developed by American company Global Technology Associates. It sells for $2500 for an unlimited licence, compared to Heunemann's estimated cost of $25,000 for GNAT Box's closest competitors.
"We figure that the type of resellers that will do well with this product will be the ones that recognise the opportunity with it," said Heunemann. "Here's a product that they can fulfil a customer requirement with and that doesn't cost their customer very much - the reseller can make some margin out of it too." He believes that the firewall market is dominated by very expensive high-end products rich in features that require a lot of expertise to set up and maintain. "Not all companies have the resources to do this, but still want to take advantage of the Internet," said Heunemann. "GNAT Box fulfils that particular market. It provides a dynamic many to one network translation scheme," he said, explaining "G" is for Global Technology Associates, "N" for network, "A" for address and "T" for translation, GNAT (pronounced "nat" - go to www.gta.com for a soundbyte).
"Because of the way GNAT Box is priced and its licensing structure, it's suitable for all sizes of organisations. Corporations and government are the types of organisations we are hoping to attract," Heunemann said.
A second product called WebSENSE is being imported by Lanvision from US company NetPartners. Designed for screening of offensive and irrelevant material on the Internet, WebSENSE is a database of URLs categorised under 26 headings (from abortion to weapons), by NetPartners' Web surfers. The database is updated daily and downloaded to the end-user's server each day.
Heunemann says WebSENSE differs from the usual shrink-wrapped Internet screening programs in that it is also a daily service and is paid for in a yearly subscription style.
"It's unique in that most of these Internet screening products rely on keyword searches - using a database of objectionable words. But they are a bit limiting. For instance you wouldn't be able to go to the Dick Smith home page because it has the word "dick" in it. There was a big story in the US last year that a lot of kids couldn't go to the White House Web page because it had turkey breasts on the menu."
Heunemann said WebSENSE differs in that the site as a whole is categorised. The network administrator can choose which categories are to be screened and may define his/her own categories to add to the database.
At the simplest level, the program blocks access to sites deemed "undesirable and irrelevant" to employees' work - maximising productivity on the Web, protecting the company from legal liability such as sexual harassment cases, and freeing up network bandwidth by prohibiting some unnecessary downloads.
"The idea for Internet screening was to stop people from loading objectionable material off the Web into the corporation, but it actually goes a bit deeper than that now. Publications have done surveys that show there's actually a high percentage of time wasted by people with Web access. The estimate is something like 20 per cent or one and a half hours a day," Heunemann said.
WebSENSE also allows for the network administrator to monitor Internet activity. If a worker is visiting an irrelevant site, the administrator can redirect him/her to a company policy on Internet use. Lanvision sees this as a suitable program for a wide range of users - schools, universities, corporates and government.
WebSENSE itself sits behind the firewall and runs on a single NT computer; no software is required on user workstations.
WebSENSE suggested retail prices: from a 25- user licence at $1290 and 100-user licence at $3890, to an unlimited-user licence for $18,195.
Lanvision expects to have a Web site up by June, with software evaluation downloads to be available.
Tel(02) 9882 0080
Fax (02) 9882 0098
Global Technology Associates Web: www.gta.comNetPartners Web: www.netpart.com