There are few people in the IT industry that would gloat about servicing a company of less than 50 people to their global peers. There are even fewer that would do it for a 10-seat operation. But in reality, the SMB market is the backbone of the Australian economy and deserves its time in the spotlight.
While the market may not retain the pizzazz or influence of large enterprise, there are more IT decision makers in the SMB space than any other. In fact, 99.8 per cent of Australian businesses are classified as small- or medium-sized with a headcount under 500, according to IDC.
Across the country there are about 829,300 small businesses (not including sole traders - that would add another million) and 11,400 medium-size businesses that need IT services; IDC classifies small as 1-99 employees and medium-size as 100-499 employees. That leaves just 0.2 per cent of the market - admittedly a lucrative portion (over 50 per cent of total ICT spending) - as large enterprise. While the big bucks may be in this latter minority, the game is restricted to few players and often the channel is cut out entirely.
With numbers on its side and solid growth forecast (IDC predicts software adoption in the small business market to grow at 10.1 per cent and services at 4.4 per cent CAGR between 2007- 2012), the SMB space holds potential for those willing to put in the hard yakka.
This is particularly evident in the servers market where spending rose 17 per cent and broke through the $US1 billion mark in 2007 to place Australia in third largest market position in Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan). There was also a 40 per cent increase in x86 blade server shipments during the same year.
In line with this growth, SMBs have quickly adopted many characteristics of their large enterprise cousins and become far savvier purchasers.
"We are no longer just talking about a mail server or a file server," NEC technical sales specialist server and storage, Anthony Pepin, said. "We're talking about things like Microsoft SharePoint in every environment, we're talking about some sort of a web presence - even small businesses where they only have 25 users have roaming staff that need access to data. They'll also have their own customer base that needs access to inventory and things like that. Small businesses are trying to do what big businesses have been doing for years."
Microsoft product manager SMB servers, Robbie Upcroft, agreed and added SMBs who don't have these solutions will fall behind the market.
"Having a solid IT platform in place is no longer a question for small businesses; they absolutely must have it," he claimed. "Look around at any small business conference these days...everyone is checking their emails. And those businesses that don't have access to those kinds of resources are really starting to fall behind."