How SMBs can benefit from a ‘new style of IT’

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In a recent wave of statements by executives at Hewlett Packard, the integrated use of social media, mobility, big data and cloud by business of all sizes has been termed “the new style of IT.” If HP’s own predictions are on target, the next few years will see a huge uptake of these new technologies by small and mid-sized businesses as the IT landscape progresses through this latest revolution.

Traditionally, IT infrastructure was an element to be outsourced (assuming it was not developed in-house) from the ground up. Competitive bidding processes would lead to long-term contracts, and businesses could expect start-up times of up to six months. A company’s growth would necessitate upgrades to its original IT model — at an additional expense, of course. Contractually fixed annual increases would also add to the overall bill.

Today, brand loyalty for data centre hardware is dying off due to the rising popularity of cloud-based virtualization. Exclusive service providers no longer enjoy a monopoly on a limited range of applications, and analytics are no longer being conducted in siloes. Recognizing the significance of this paradigm shift, HP CEO Meg Whitman has divided the company’s operations into two streams. In addition to its manufacture of personal printers and computers, the new Hewlett Packard Enterprises will “define the next generation of technology infrastructure, software, and services.”

What does this next generation mean for small and mid-sized businesses? Through simplified platforms and solutions which can be integrated, businesses can expect to see enhanced productivity, reduced costs, leaner and more flexible work environments, a greater ability to accumulate data, and an improvement to the customer experience.

While this is something that companies are always looking to do regardless of size, SMBs especially will benefit, since they typically run on tighter profit margins. “We are seeing increased reliance on virtualization,” says Joseph Cooper, an engineer at IT firm Emerging Technology Integrators. “The biggest benefit for SMBs … is the money savings from reducing hardware purchases.”

With new technologies, organizations no longer need to rely on packaged, one-size-fits-most products from single-source vendors. According to Raj Thakur, servers and converged systems general manager of HP South-Pacific, the SMB sector will show a more prominent uptake of these increasingly diverse solutions over its larger counterpart.

He says, “What [SMBs] want for their business, and they’ll move quickly because they don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy or internal processes, is to likely consume technology as a service. They don’t have the legacy compared to the large enterprises, and so they’ll leapfrog. I think the minute they find the right solution … In 2015 and 2016 you’ll start to see a big jump.”

With more SMBs crossing into this new IT paradigm, Thakur believes niche service providers will respond by filling the gap between initial solutions and the unique vertical needs of individual businesses. “Service providers often start off providing generic services, such as analytics,” he explains, “but if you take it to another level, say with a retailer that is looking for a specific application, it’s a big burden for current service providers. This is why I think we’ll start seeing more niche service providers that may specialise in analytics for SMB retailers, for instance. I think that’s probably the next big turning point and trend.”

Today’s IT world is still — and may always be — one where the data centre is a significant aspect of growth for any business. But unlike a decade ago, the individual pieces of that data centre are no longer the exclusive territory of a single provider. Traditional IT is not the dominant platform anymore, and this gap will only widen in the next few years as more and more SMBs embrace “the new style of IT.”

 Flickr photo of Meg Whitman via Creative Commons license

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