I blogged back in June about the increasing willingness of SMBs to adopt consumer technologies, a trend that is influencing the product line-ups of vendors like Cisco. Then I blogged in January about a Yankee Group study that suggested that consumer technologies could drive significant productivity increases for SMBs.
In a February interview with IT Business Edge, Yankee Group VP Steve Hilton emphasized that SMBs are typically more open to consumer technologies than their enterprise counterparts. He said:
... large enterprise organizations have IT departments that practice a command-and-control mentality. They do not let in rogue solutions. They are going to dictate what employees use and set up protocols to keep out new technologies. SMBs don't focus on controlling employees' access to applications. They have bigger fish to fry. The adoption of these collaborative solutions is going to happen much more quickly at small businesses than large businesses.
While noting that consumer technologies aren't appropriate for every business application, Hilton gave the practice a strong vote of confidence. He said:
The business that recognizes the power of these tools is going to win. That firm is going to beat the firm that doesn't embrace these solutions.
Yet SMBs' adoption of consumer technologies can also have a potentially disastrous impact on their business, says Info-Tech Research Group analyst William Terrill in an ARNnet.com.au article. Noting that an IT manager to whom he had recently spoken was considering using a consumer-grade hard drive to back up applications and transfer them to his home PC, he says:
... then what happens if your kids tie it into your computer and wipe stuff out? It's an interesting idea as a cheap backup mechanism for emergencies, but the security aspects become potentially disastrous for anything over than a very small office/home office environment.
Terrill says SMBs are lured by low prices for technologies that seem similar to the more expensive enterprise-class solutions. SMBs also tend to have more of a do-it-yourself attitude to technology than their larger counterparts. This double whammy is making it tough for some technology resellers. The ARNnet.com.au article quotes the president of a Canadian IT solutions provider who says many SMBs are "looking at everything as a commodity."
The exec cites one instance in which his company lost out on a remote connectivity deal when an SMB decided to purchase a router and set up its own network. When bandwidth demands and security presented challenges, the SMB ended up hiring his company anyway. He says:
It's never a problem until it's a problem, and the client has a hard time grasping that.