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SMBs look for host with the most

SMBs look for host with the most

IT guru and owner of Adelaide-based Calvert Technologies, Dean Calvert, has observed the evolution of the SMB market and its attitudes towards IT for more than a decade.

He was recently one of three worldwide specialists invited to address the Microsoft Small Business Symposium in Boston, where he presented on the trend of SMBs turning to the use of managed services.

The model suited the SMB market, he said, because many lacked the resources to look after IT properly.

Leading the move towards managed services, Calvert said the Internet had already become the major integration platform.

"The next stage we will see is servers disappearing from small businesses as they are replaced by managed services that deliver the same benefits while reducing cost and complexity," he said.

Agreement

WebCentral CEO, Andrew Spicer, agreed but said it wasn't always such an easy sell.

"Managed services were a bit of a disaster back when companies were called application service providers {ASPs] in the late 1990s," he said. "Businesses like Peakhour were just too far ahead of their time. We have actually gone back and looked at those ideas because the time has finally come."

MessageLabs partner account director, Belinda Burgess, said speedier Internet access was seeing SMBs wake up to a world of technological possibilities.

"The SMB market is starting to adopt managed services," she said. "It started off slowly, but with businesses getting more comfortable and seeing the benefits, it's really starting to move."

Spicer said the way technology is used inside SMBs was being turned on its head.

"The computer just used to be this thing in the corner that the office girl turned on to do the accounts," he said. "Now SMB owners are using technology a lot and our partners tell us 50 per cent of their sales leads come via Web or email enquiries."

Calvert suggested the cost and complexity of upgrading technology was a concern for SMBs.

"For small businesses, [managed services] will replace big ticket purchases with smaller monthly payments, just like your business leases a car rather than buys it," he said. "This approach makes financial and operational sense. A technology partner can help small businesses get more value from technology rather than spending time keeping the stuff running."

Burgess said the big end of town had long outsourced IT needs and claimed the SMB market was fast catching on to the concept.

"SMBs are really changing their whole business model," she said. "That's why resellers are looking at vendors like us. We have a turnkey solution with low administration beyond the point of sale."

Spicer said the killer hosted application for SMBs was premium email. WebCentral already handled 12,000 mailboxes and the figure was growing.

He said the fact email was centrally stored, backed up and protected from spam were key reasons for SMBs making the switch.

"Initially, most SMBs had a simple POP-style email and once it was downloaded onto the PC, that's where it stayed. So if there was a hard-disk crash, or theft, a business could basically lose its whole order book," Spicer said. "Now premium email is starting to explode. We have had 100 per cent growth in nine months."


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