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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Small Businesses Have More Technology Choices
It is an excellent time to be a small business.

Despite all the challenges small businesses face, today we have more affordable resources, tools and support than ever.

Take technology, for example. The average small business is equipped with more technology than a large corporate office of two generations ago. Technology has had a huge impact on small businesses because it positions small businesses to deliver results that in many situations can rival those of large corporations (read "Technology Levels the Playing Field").

Small businesses wield significant buying power and collectively make an attractive market. Large tech companies know that, and market leaders put their R&D money where their mouths are. One example is HP, which this year has made a major initiative to introduce new products and services designed just for small businesses.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to talk by phone with Lisa Wolfe and Jack Van Horn, two executives with Hewlett Packard (HP). They were announcing a number of offerings and special programs to serve small businesses, under HP's Smart Office portfolio.

The new product offerings include a new backup and recovery software, called HP StorageWorks Data Protector Express. HP also offers a managed services contract for remote backup and security including anti-spyware and antivirus security protection called Smart Desktop Management Service. It is very attractively priced at about $19/month per PC client, and right now they are offering a 30-day free trial.

There is also a modular storage array solution meant for SMBs with the need to keep adding to data storage, such as law firms that experience rapid data growth. And they have partnered with Cisco to provide networking solutions and tools for SMBs, such as an online configurator for figuring networking needs.

More can be found at the HP website and in the press release.

Some bloggers do not like to be contacted with press releases nor do they have interest in following up on them. Time permitting, I usually jump at the chance to talk with vendors making big announcements about the small business market. Why? Because it is important to see not just how small businesses think, but also how vendors that vie for their dollars are thinking about small businesses.

I consider three questions when talking with vendors about their new offerings:
  • Does the vendor really understand the needs of the small business market?

  • Is the small business market an important part of their business strategy so that they will invest in product development for the SMB market?

  • Has the offering been intelligently designed from the ground up specifically with small businesses in mind (rather than something half-heartedly slapped together to respond to senior management's call "we need an SMB offering, people!")?
On all three questions I am impressed. HP's been putting a lot of effort into new product, including partnering with other companies like Cisco to bring critical components to their offering. While I have not used any of these particular offerings, at least from the descriptions it sounds as if HP has attempted to make the products (1) easy to implement and (2) affordable -- two keys for small businesses.

Lisa Wolfe, HP Worldwide SMB Business Protection Solutions Manager, pointed out that 9 out of 10 small businesses in the U.S. have an HP product. Small and midsize businesses generate USD$24 Billion, or one-third, of HP's annual revenue. I'd say HP recognizes how important small businesses are to its future.

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