SMB is fast becoming the Holy Grail for networking vendors of all shapes and sizes but they need to get their strategies in order, according to resellers contacted by ARN.
Total Computer Technology (TCT) managing director, Robert Brown, said he wasn't surprised vendors were tussling to get a piece of SMB. But regardless of heritage, he argued all needed to define a specific strategy.
"Cisco, Nortel and the like are all doing the same thing and they can't push that into SMB," he said. "The support structure, pricing and products have to be different. If you're trying to just push into this space with corporate products, you will struggle."
While the big guns, including Cisco and Nortel, are trying hard to crack the SMB market from an enterprise viewpoint, there's also a raft of smaller players with a consumer and SOHO heritage trying to move up. Networking hardware vendor, D-Link, is the latest looking to ramp up SMB activity, launching a new Premier program to work more closely with SMB-focused resellers. Others trying to get a handle on the market include Netgear and SonicWall.
Brown said the main problem with vendors moving up the chain was product quality and the lack of sufficient support. He claimed TCT now refused to sell products from some of the smaller vendors because support was inadequate. In light of this, Cisco and Nortel's corporate experiences would make it easier for them to come down and be successful in SMB, he said.
"It's all about trust and support: we have dealt with those brands pushing up, and the support has let them down," he said. "A lot of it is outsourced. When you ring up, they're often reading off a PDF and I can do that. We sometimes have more local support staff than they do. That makes it hard to have confidence in that product.
"It takes a lot more time, effort and cost to push into the SMB space. It requires proper commitment, rather than just bringing out a great product." As a result, Brown said TCT would only use gear from D-Link or Netgear for basic switching, and shift to enterprise-grade products once it started affecting more users.
"We don't consider brands such as Netgear and Dlink as an SMB play, so we don't have confidence in these products," he said. "As an SMB reseller, the buck stops with us. A lot of what we sell is by recommendation. Customers don't ask us for a brand, but a solution. If we don't give them this, we don't get recommended.
"So if we're offering a SOHO product, we have to have confidence in it. And that's about longevity - any vendor needs to be able to qualify their exposure in that market for at least 6-12 months."