SMBs Continue to Spend on IT Despite Weak Economy

Paul Mah
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Ten Communication Tools that SMBs Need to Focus on Now

There is no denying the weak economy in the U.S., which is correlated by the slow pace of new hires in small- and mid-sized businesses. According to a new report, this state of affairs has not prevented SMBs from increasing their IT spending, however, which MSPmentor.net asserts could mean that SMBs will "increasingly turn to managed services providers (MSPs) and other external folks for IT assistance to fill tactical and strategic gaps." With a focus on topics that are of interest to IT vendors and those involved in the channel, the website cited a Parks Associate study that the SMB tech support market in the United States will be worth more than $15 billion in three years.


Interestingly, while 44 percent of SMBs experience computer problems, only 28 percent of them seek professional support services. This may reflect a reluctance to trust external IT professionals, or signify a lack of awareness about the various facets of IT operations and how to properly parcel related components together. To assist in the latter, I've loosely grouped various aspects of IT together below.


Mobile Strategy


The modern business environment entails addressing new challenges not typically found in the office in the past. On top of managing an inundation of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, employees are also clamoring for pervasive wireless access for the above devices as well as for their laptops. As such, SMBs must ensure that they provision for the implementation of reliable, secure Wi-Fi. When I spoke with Dirk Gates of wireless networking company Xirrus recently on the state of Wi-Fi in business, he told me that a properly deployed Wi-Fi wireless network can indeed replace wired networks today.


Communication and Collaboration


Even a moderately sized business depends on a mishmash of technologies to facilitate communication and collaboration, which may range from the use of email, instant messaging and online tools such as Microsoft SharePoint. Rather than having to acquire, deploy and configure each component separately, there are thankfully many online providers available that can provide these services for SMBs without the need for any upfront investments.


Storage and Archives


The price of redundant storage arrays have dipped in tandem with the declining cost of storage capacity. SMBs are inundated with options today as a result, which include commercial cloud providers such as Amazon EC2 and Box.net. The key here is to put together a storage strategy to meet the unique needs of your organization. SMBs may want to engage the services of qualified storage professionals on this front.


On-site Support


While it can be argued that an increasingly mobile work force will benefit less from on-site support, one commonly missed aspect is the downtime incurred when employees have to wait for laptops or desktops to be repaired. On-site support is pretty much mandatory in order to ease the transition onto a temporary rig, or to ensure that a new machine has been properly set up.

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