Managing IT at an SMB Is One Tough Job

Slide Show

Ten Things About the IT Life of a Small Business Professional

A quick look at what the average business executive does and does not know about small business IT.

When it comes to managing IT there has always been a debate about which job is tougher. Is it harder to manage IT in a large enterprise with lots of sprawling systems, or is it tougher to manage IT at the small-to-medium business (SMB) level.

A new survey from Lenovo and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) highlights the challenges that IT personnel face at the SMB level. As noted in the survey, employees working for SMB companies tend to engage in a lot of risky behavior, including accessing unsecured networks and sharing USB drives of uncertain provenance.

It's arguable whether people working for SMB companies take more shortcuts than their counterparts at larger companies. The larger the company, the more likely it is that the IT department has some tools, and the backing of corporate policy, to enforce its will on the rest of the company.

IT people working at an SMB company are all too often focused on trying to keep things up and running, so they're basically hoping that end users won't get into too much trouble. And if they do encounter security issues, the IT department will pretty much opt to wipe their systems clean by returning them to their original pristine state after delivering a stern lecture about how to maintain a healthy PC.

But when it comes to doing something proactively about that behavior, IT folks working at an SMB company are at a decided disadvantage. As a result, one of the things we desperately need to see more of in 2011 is more IT automation tools delivered as a service. There are plenty of IT automation tools, but they tend to be beyond the budget and skill-levels of the average IT organization working in an SMB environment.

As Charles Sue, SMB portfolio manager for Lenovo, notes, this all means that IT teams in SMB organizations need to be a lot more careful about the vendors and technologies they work with. Reliability becomes a critical factor, along with the quality of the management tools provided by the vendor, he says.

Hopefully, PC manufacturers and companies such as Microsoft will make much bigger strides in this regard in 2011. We've already seen a fair amount of progress in 2010, especially in the area of security and remote IT support. But that's not quite the same thing as having systems that self-diagnose themselves and then send out a request to remediate a potential problem automatically without any intervention required by the IT departments.


There's an old saying that any process that is visible to the end customer is fundamentally broken. When you think about that saying in the context of IT, it's pretty clear the process breaks down at least several times a day.

In the meantime, the IT folks working in the SMB environment have the tougher job simply because the number of potential tasks and things that can wrong is generally much larger than the relative size of the staff on hand to address them. So when you start to think about things in terms of a problem-to-staff ratio, and then add in the lack of an ability to really enforce policies, the IT folks working at an SMB company have the much tougher job.