Is the Term 'SMB' Antiquated?

Carl Weinschenk
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Ten Communication Tools that SMBs Need to Focus on Now

Kevin Casey at InformationWeek offers a nice takeaway from the SMB Group's 2012 Mobile Business Solutions Study.

Casey looks at issues to which small businesses - those defined as having 100 or fewer employees - should be paying attention. This size organization, he suggests, is missing the boat if it doesn't do three things: Pay at least some attention to internal applications (as opposed to consumer-facing apps), put a mobile device policy in place and work out an overall game plan into which all the mobile devices fit.

All of these are good suggestions - and all hint that <strong>small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs</strong>) are a far more differentiated category than it generally is assumed. Large SMBs are more likely to be doing what is necessary to keep up with the fast-paced changes facing contemporary businesses than a truly small business. Such entities - one person working alone in his or her den or basement - likely are far more rudimentary in their approaches to IT, telecom and security than a medium-sized business. Indeed, a one-man shop is farther away than a large, medium-size business than that midsize is from an enterprise.

Truly small businesses have more in common with the consumer sector. They shop for supplies at retail chains and use their personal mobile and desktop equipment. They really are consumers acting like consumers - though they are considered part of the SMB world.

At the same time, the world is getting more diffuse. Increasingly, those very small businesses consist of folks who are contract workers or have other set relationships with bigger businesses. The bigger businesses simply are saving money by using the independent workers' skills without directly employing them. In other cases, remote workers who actually are employed by an enterprise or larger SMB are left to fend for themselves in terms of telecommunications and IT.

The bottom line is that the neat distinctions that analysts draw between business sizes are huge oversimplifications. This is a pressing issue as data of increasing value is sent to unprotected smartphones or similarly unguarded home PCs.

Suppose, for instance, that a Fortune 1000 accounting firm sends out data governed by Sarbanes-Oxley to a contract specialist who works from his or her home. Is the big firm responsible for the data integrity when the files are in the independent contractor's PC - one that is used by the rest of the family and maybe full of viruses? Even if they technically are responsible, how closely does the enterprise monitor such activity in the real world?

The business world, like the rest of society, is becoming more decentralized and fragmented. Bringing the smallest of the small up to speed - such as Verizon Business, the U.S. Small Business Administration and others are doing - has never been more important.

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