Microsoft hopes it will be third time lucky as it has another crack at convincing small business owners that their lives would be easier if they took the plunge into a server environment.
Vice-president of global partner operations, Steve Guggenheimer, told delegates at the Microsoft partner conference that there was a massive opportunity to be exploited in this space with the vendor’s third generation product.
This, he said, was because Microsoft had finally found the right features formula and price point with Small Business Server (SBS) 2003.
“This is the best product we have done for small business in my [10 years] time at Microsoft,” he said. “Instead of bundling stuff together we have integrated the best of four other server models into a single package.
“We didn’t have the price point right in the past but you can now get server software and hardware for less than $2000. The benefits will always outweigh the costs but we need to get small business owners talking to other small business owners about the value proposition.”
Guggenheimer, who is also Microsoft’s small business vice-president, said he was constantly hearing of situations where a server was the ideal solution but had not been mentioned by the customer.
“They talk about the need to improve email structure and scheduling, wanting remote access, setting up internal email easily, being able to do security well or backing up critical information,” he said. “The return on investment from installing a server would be very positive for all of these scenarios.”
Microsoft SBS 2003 is available in two versions – Standard for $1099; Premium for $2699.
The Premium model adds Sequel, more advanced firewall technology and Front Page.
Guggenheimer said the opportunity would need to be executed in three stages by Microsoft and its business partners. The first, which he felt the vendor had now achieved, was to build the right solution.
The next, he said, would be to get customers focussed on tackling the issues they faced.
“We need to cut through the noise and help customers understand the right thing to do,” he said. “Cost and benefit has to be in the same sentence so that we can help people see both sides of the coin.
“The marketing has to be done in the right way but it’s as much about education at the end of the day.”
Finally, and probably most importantly for any vendor trying to address the 47 million small businesses around the world, you needed a partner community to serve them, he said.
As for trends that would eventually drive take up of Microsoft SBS 2003, Guggenheimer highlighted security, the competitive nature of business and pressure from larger business partners to keep up technologically.
He was unwilling to estimate when SBS 2003 would take off but said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was more successful than previous Microsoft small business server incarnations within a year.
Microsoft estimates there are 1.3 million small businesses in Australia. Of these, it claims two-thirds have more than one PC, 500,000 are networking PCs, 248,000 already have a server, and 80,000 have more than one server.