SMBs Getting into Networking Groove

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Which technologies are at the top of spending lists for SMBs in 2007?


Wired and wireless switching, routing and networking products will account for a big chunk of SMB tech spending, $1.9 billion, according to AMI-Partners. That's up 13 percent from 2006.


A desire for shared e-mail, instant messaging and other real-time collaboration tools is driving the interest in enhanced networking capabilities, says an AMI-Partners analyst. There's plenty of room for growth, considering that just 53 percent of U.S. SMBs have deployed a local area network (LAN). Just one in three of those with LANs have wireless connectivity.


Two of the biggest networking players, Cisco and Nortel, are playing on this SMB interest by offering packages packed with features such as VoIP, wireless connectivity and unified communications. The biggest of the big tech titans, Microsoft, also appears to be gunning for SMB business with its recent rollout of betas for its VoIP and unified communications server and client, Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007.


These emerging options may confuse some SMBs, prompting them to enlist a VAR to install and maintain a system for them or to go with a hosted VoIP solution, said another AMI-Partners analyst in a recent IT Business Edge interview. As with other technologies, many vendors simply offer SMBs scaled-down versions of solutions originally developed for bigger businesses. However, he adds, SMBs, VARs and vendors are "slowly starting to get it."


More proof of the power of VoIP in attracting SMBs: Best Buy's recent $97 million purchase of VoIP services provider Speakeasy, with the intent of making Speakeasy a focal point of its "Best Buy for Business" unit.