The undiscovered -- or at least underutilized -- vendor gold mine represented by small businesses has gradually gotten more attention during the past half decade. Big accounts are maxed out, IT and telecom competition is increasing, and technical developments make it easier to address smaller groups of users.
This week, Verizon Wireless updated its Freedom for Business program. Now, according to this Reuters story posted at eWEEK, subscribers can get unlimited service to other Verizon Wireless subscribers for free and unlimited calls to as many as five landline phones for $4.99 per month.
Late last month, Verizon Wireless -- which is set to undergo some changes with its purchase last week of Alltel -- won some SMB bragging rights. J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Business Wireless Satisfaction Study said that the carrier earned the top spot for both small and medium-sized businesses. T-Mobile USA came in second in both the small and medium categories. The story on the announcement at Mobile Marketer also offered interesting insight into the categories. Forty-one percent of businesses use individual service plans, with 38 percent using shared-minute plans, a 7 percent increase from two years ago. Small and mid-sized companies spend an average of $512 percent per month.
More small business news was made during at the beginning of this month as Trend Micro launched the Worry Free SecureSite and upgraded its Worry Free Business Security 5.0 package. The Worry Free family, which the story says is four years old, protects SMBs as they increasingly rely on the Web to do business. The story paraphrases Trend Micro executives, who say that the moves were the first of series aimed at SMBs' Web activities.
One challenge in considering the SMB sector is that it covers a tremendous amount of ground. A small business, of course, can be as small as one person. The term "medium size," in this context, can be a size that most people consider to be quite large. For instance, Oracle's Accelerate program goes after mid-sized companies that are firmly in the SMB category -- and have annual revenue of $500 million. Oracle claims that Accelerate offers customers fully featured versions of its enterprise applications and claims that this differs from others in the industry. The other vendors, Oracle claims, offer truncated versions with hopes of upselling as the company grows.
Still another move into the SMB this month was made by SteelCloud. The company's SteelCloud Mobile enables simplified deployment of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Developed in conjunction with Research in Motion (RIM), the plug-and-play platform can be operational in one half hour, according to this story in PC World. The company claims that 80 to 90 percent of the setup process has been automated. SteelWorks Mobile can support 2,000 BlackBerrys and works with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise mail servers.
The weeks ahead are likely to bring just as many announcements. The bottom line is that small and medium-sized enterprises are big business, and the vendors and carriers know this.