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Time to lose the ‘Band-Aid’ approach to IT

EMC’s Mark Oakey urges small businesses to adopt a sustainable approach to IT.

There was a time not so long ago when the greatest IT storage challenge faced by many SMBs was trying to remember where they had put the computer support technician’s number.

Occasionally there would be a frenzied hunt through old USB sticks to find a long-forgotten file, or an immediate pang of regret when an important email was inadvertently deleted.

OK, this might be a little tongue-in-cheek but on the whole, however, wrangling with big data storage issues was primarily seen by many as the domain of enterprise business.

According to the 2011 IDC Digital Universe study, commissioned by EMC, enterprises are currently liable for managing about 80 per cent of the world’s data. That’s a lot of data. The amount of digital information created, consumed and stored around the globe this year will surpass 1.8 trillion gigabytes – or about 500 quadrillion files or enough to fill 75 billion, fully-loaded iPads.

That’s not to say SMBs aren’t already shouldering their own data load. Right now some $143 billion in transactions were Internet-generated for local small business last year. This includes everything from electronic customer queries, website views, online retailing and more. In turn this causes expanding CRM databases, email in-boxes, application data and documents.

What we know today is that this is just the tip of the data iceberg. What we don’t know is how far below the water’s surface the SMB data iceberg extends.

Ironically, SMBs have been led to believe that help was at hand. The internet revolution was meant to be the great leveller for businesses; sophisticated data analysis and integrated fulfilment meant that the small store could finally compete with large enterprises.

And while there have been some David and Goliath success stories of smaller businesses using technology to punch above their weight, largely SMBs feel that they have been left out in the cold.

In a recent EMC study on SMBs, an overwhelming 62 per cent of SMBs said it was difficult to find IT solutions that met their business needs and nearly 46 per cent felt frustrated when dealing with technology companies as four out of 10 respondents felt that IT solutions for SMBs were not developed with the SMBs’ needs in mind.

Secondly, small businesses are often time poor, focusing their efforts on getting things done. The pressures of competing in a crowded market with the big enterprises, and concentration around tasks that help them pay the rent, keep the lights on, and keep their stakeholders happy, largely leave them with very little time to think about technology and how to leverage it for greater competitive advantage. This is compounded by the fact they just want something that works, does not cost much and isn’t too complicated to set up.

The study also reflected that price, suitability and vendor understanding of their needs were the top three factors that SMBs identified as important. Therefore, they often purchase products and solutions that meet their immediate needs, but the avalanche of information that they have to deal with just fills up capacity too soon, beginning the purchase cycle all over again – not allowing them to evaluate the bigger picture or the competitive landscape.

Small business owners are often concerned that their dollars could be spent focusing on product and marketing investments to grow their business and compete for business with the large enterprises. And while that is true, IT does not go away. In fact, the more the business attempts to grow, the more complicated the IT infrastructure becomes. Hence, this is the best time for SMBs to get their house in order and set up a strategy to streamline their IT processes.

For this reason, SMBs that can leave behind their ‘Band-Aid’ buying approach that they’ve historically taken to IT purchasing, will recognise that IT will be pivotal in helping them to acquire, integrate, operate and create competitive advantage in order to achieve sustainable growth and be more agile to changing market conditions.

– Mark Oakey is the Marketing Manager, Storage Platforms at EMC Corporation ANZ.

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