Iomega, the company that invented the Zip drive, is reinventing itself in a whole new way. While maintaining its core external storage business, the venerable company that redefined the sneakernet is taking its first steps toward becoming a managed services company.
While some people may view managed services as an unlikely tangent for an external storage company, it seems perfectly logical to Jonathan Huberman, who is just six months into his tenure as Iomega's CEO. "Our goal is to provide enterprise-level applications to small businesses that need them, but could not otherwise afford them on their own," he said.
The VPN capability provides secure remote connections to the company network for both telecommuters and remote offices. The firewall is designed to thwart security threats from hackers, worms and viruses. The appliance resides on site and plugs into the customer's network, but Iomega manages it meaning it maintains the appliance performance and all security updates.
Huberman estimates the average cost for this service (he cautions that pricing will depend on the specific features a company chooses) to be $200 a month per appliance, per site. Adding VPN capability would cost approximately $25 per person, per month.
For example, a doctor's practice with offices in two locations might opt for an appliance on each site to handle the firewall protection and to provide secure access for say, five employees from remote locations (think doctors at the hospital who need to access a patient's information on the company server). Huberman's pricing puts the cost for that arrangement at $525 a month.
"There are small businesses that can't afford not to have enterprise-level protection. They often have the same issues, the same risks and the same compliance issues as Fortune 500 companies, but they don't have the same IT staff or resources," he says.
Managed services appeal to many small-and-medium-sized businesses because they don't have to invest any money upfront to buy the hardware and software or to pay for someone to come in and maintain it all. Instead, they pay a fixed monthly subscription fee.
Translating Storage Expertise
Why would anyone buy a network security service from a data storage company? That feels a bit like getting your car insurance from an auto mechanic. Just because an auto repair shop deals with cars doesn't make it an expert at insuring them. Iomega may deal with data, but does it have the expertise to secure it?
Iomega is banking on two strategies. It recently acquired CSCI, Inc., a San Diego-based managed services company the one that developed the OfficeScreen service that now bears Iomega's name. According to Huberman, Iomega plans to either acquire or form partnerships with expert companies to provide other managed services down the line.
Most importantly, says Huberman, Iomega is a trusted brand around the globe. "People trust Iomega to protect their data, and this is an extension of that trust. We're expanding on our 25 years of providing secure, reliable data security products."
Iomega envisions even more managed services down the road. The next project will take on disaster recovery and business continuity, which Huberman calls a natural step. The plan adds more layers to data security and includes spam control, digital certificates and dual-factor authentication (i.e., using a password and a second form of identification, such as a USB key, to access the network).
Huberman hopes the disaster recovery and business continuity service will be ready by the end of 2006. After that, "We'll look to desktop management in some form or another in 2007."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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