Mixing his two areas of passion (security and the channel), Michael Grace is on a mission to pump up the reseller ranks for the Australian arm of Network Box, a managed security provider.
With security experience at Fortinet, NetScreen and WatchGuard, along with computing and electronics training, the general manager for sales and marketing, is no stranger to the IT channel and wants to use his know-how to drive the local market.
Until recently, Network Box sold direct to customers, but Grace wants to change that. The company has since decided to conduct all of its business through its channel partners. In May 2004, it appointed Firewall Systems as its sole distributor.
The global company, which manages the perimeter and gateway security of more than 3000 sites ranging from SOHO to large, multinational enterprises, is pitching its flagship product, the Internet Threat Protection device, to SMBs and enterprise sites.
Locally, the company provides managed services to more than 50 businesses including Nintendo, Oce Australia, K&S Group and Boise Cascade.
How did you get involved in IT?
Michael Grace (MG): It all began with Telecom Australia, where I did my time as a technician. It was my first electronics training. Then the urge to see the world got a hold of me.
At that time, we were switching from analogue to digital technologies. As exciting as it was, the desire to go out and see the world was stronger.
Eventually, I landed in Austria at a 120-person organisation up in the Alps, an international guest house centre, and they needed someone to handle their electronics, and to eventually introduce computing technology.
Through that I started to work with analogue and digital technology, and from that I started introducing computer technology (PC and networking technology) which got me across into IT.
This early experience gave me a grounding in programming and business process reengineering - deciphering what is useful and what isn't useful in the introduction of IT to an organisation.
What are your main goals as GM?
MG: Up until I joined the company, Network Box sold direct. And we need to ramp up the business and grow it and we think we need the channel, and are working through distribution.
Each member of the channel, between us and the manufacturer down to the end-user, is concentrating at all times on his core strengths and business.
The reseller is managing the relationship and introducing technology; the ISPs are pulling in systems integration partners or selling solutions themselves; and the distributor does logistics, finance, storage and channel programs.
Network Box can train and certify systems integrators or VARs who have appropriate staff. We have introduced two levels of certification and training. Level one is onsite installations, while the second is doing the consultancy and requirements analysis.
The focus of this is to enable any level of reseller in Australia to go out there and sell a comprehensive managed security solution to his customer base. No reseller should feel he's not in a position to sell a comprehensive security solution today.
What can the channel expect to see this year?
MG: Partners can expect to see the continued rollout of the partner program now that Firewall Systems has signed up. We have our first technical certification training (Level One) at the end of this month in Sydney, followed up in two weeks in Melbourne. Level Two certification will follow four weeks later.
There's also an eduprotect program. We've found an enormously strong appeal within the school sector because it's comprehensive, it's unlimited licensing. As well, we're coming up with more verticals: the next one will be mediprotect. But before we do, we want to make sure the eduprotect sits well with the educational resellers.
What does the flagship product do, and what is the company's main differentiator?
MG: The product protects against the usual firewall and VPN issues, against viruses, against sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, against content threats, provides the overall filtering, intrusion protection and, of course, anti-spam.
So the founders built this integrated device, and inked an OEM agreement with Kapersky Labs (to round out the antivirus solution), along with SurfControl (for the overall content filtering).
We have the engine and the database, and we use our own reporting tools. We implemented intrusion prevention detection, and then put it all together as a managed solution. We come out, look at the network, do some consultancy, do requirements analysis of what the business is doing and how the network is working, and then do an appropriate configuration.
The customer doesn't have to do anything, except cooperate and answer the questions accurately. The fact that we can offer the solution, along with the managed services, is unique.
Each Network Box is remotely monitored, maintained, updated and managed 24x7 by a network of security operations centres.