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How Small Business IT Needs are Changing


How Small Business IT Needs are ChangingMy name is Chris Keenan and I am the director of small and medium business for Dell in Canada, the advance solutions group. One trend I have seen emerge over the last five years has really been the diversity of products that are being offered in the marketplace and how purposefully they are to what their intention is. So, for example, you've got products designed specifically to drive small business needs, products specifically to drive large business needs, products that are specifically focused at low-energy solutions, solutions geared around virtualization projects... It goes on and on and on. Where we used to have a much smaller line and breadth of servers, storage, and networking than we do today. The reality is today's world is has much more product breadth, but it's also much more complex than it used to be.

Choosing an Small Business IT Solution

Many things will dictate to people what was the right solution for them. Long term business needs is, I believe, where we should be starting. The business needs come first. One thing we do believe is that any technology that doesn't have business purpose has no value. So there has to be a business need behind it. Finding the business need is the first step in the finding what's the right technology for your business. The more complex it gets, the harder it is for the average day-to-day business to understand how to right- sizes a solution for them, for today, and for the future. Many of the problems we come across that we see in customer environments are driven by the wrong choice being made initially. In other words the solution was not right for this time or the solution was not right for the three year needs of the business, or it could not accommodate and scale technologies that came out that were not foreseen prior to them making those purchases. Reasons we deal with organizations like Fortress is that this is what they do for a living. This is their core competency. By dealing with them and and helping forge solutions for customers in conjunction with them, we know we're getting a right-sized solution for the customer that will meet all of those needs that they have. Doing this as a standalone organization now is not what we see is typical. The complexity and the availability of product that is out there, for most organizations it is the best practice for them to find a trusted adviser that they can consult with and make business and technology decisions with in order to make the right choices for their organizations.

Historical Approach to IT

One thing that has been a big change, as much of a change in the technologies as we've seen anything over the last five to ten years, is in how organizations are handling IT as a business unit within their organizations. Here is what I mean by that. IT has become much more prevalent over the last ten years than the ten years prior to that. We expect that to continue. What we're seeing as a continuing trend is all different types of IT resources and business processes moving back into the data center. I will give you an example of what I am talking about on that. What you saw going back to say fifty, sixty years ago, right at the birth of IT as we know it today , we've all seen black-and-white footage of the mainframes with gigantic wheels and tape spinning in rooms. End users using little green screens in front, basically terminals. That was about the norm for twenty to thirty years. When we got into the 80s, what we saw was the advent and the birth of the personal computer. A lot of the compute power that had been held in the data center started moving towards the desktop. What people could do on their desktops replaced much of what was going on in a data center. That's what served most of us during our lives in IT has been that era.

Modern Small Business IT Solutions

What we've seen the last ten years however as we have gone through a virtualization era and into what I would consider almost a cloud era, is that putting everything at the desktop has inefficiencies and also drives challenge. Challenge being on the manageability, challenge being on the efficiencies, in both a power and cooling aspect. What people have begun to find is by consolidating these environments now, you're getting better scale. You're getting better manageability and you're also getting better security around your business's information. I'll talk a little bit about that consolidation and what that means to people. Ten years ago, the way people were handling IT was it was very much a one application, one server. One process, one server type of a role delineation. You may have a mail server. You may have a file and print server. You have a database server. etcetera etcetera etcetera... With the advent and the explosion of virtualization in data centers, what we're seeing is that all those different functions and processes I just mentioned are now all being managed out of potentially one tenth the number of devices that they used to be managed and run from.

Effects on IT Staffing

What this drives is a new skill set required in IT. For many companies, IT is not their core competency. IT is not a revenue generating activity for their organization. To invest an exorbitant amount of money and time into training, maintaining staffing, and growing an IT footprint falls well outside of what their business norm is, and takes them away from what they do best. As far as how IT is being handled now, what I've seen in the marketplace is many customers using a mixed environment. They still may have IT people, that function is not gone away at all. But what we've seen, a direct complementary addition to the IT department has been third-party advisers and third party consultants. That takes place in the form of fully outsource services. Sometimes it's more augmenting what they already have in house. What they are really trying to find is how to right size how they handle IT. Creating experts across every discipline required to manage a modern IT environment is something that requires scale. Scale business and business importance in order for someone to need and want to make that investment. For the majority of customers we speak with, a model where they simply outsource the need or outsource expertise when it is required has really worked out to be the most efficient model for them. What it's letting them do is maintain some of the tradition and some of the aspects of their IT department that have always been there and still offer great value. But what it also does is it allows organizations who do it professionally, like Fortress, to come in and take companies into a more modern era in a safe and secure way that on their own they wouldn't have the ability to do.

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