Things are looking up in the SMB space when it comes to IT spending. So says Microsoft, which Tuesday published results of a survey of its second annual Microsoft SMB/Partner Insight Report.
Microsoft's survey of more than 500 Small Business Specialist (SBSC) partners in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Brazil and India found that 63 percent expect their customers to boost IT spending this year, compared to 25 percent that voiced the same prediction in last year's dismal economy. Overall, partners expect SMB focused IT spending to grow 16 percent this year, according to the survey.
Server virtualization and IT consolidation continue to be important considerations for SMBs, as 41 percent of survey respondents identified these as the top cost saving technologies. Birger Steen, vice president of small and medium business & distribution in Microsoft's Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners Group, says that's a result of the maturity of Microsoft's virtualization platform.
"This year, it's much clearer that we have a feature-by-feature virtualization offering that costs a lot less than the competition," said Steen. "VMware may have been better a year ago, but once you get to the midmarket, you want to look at performance and price, and there really is no discussion."
Virtualization is obviously a hot market, but the greatest area of opportunity for partners right now lies in Windows 7 upgrades, according to Steen. SMBs are also following Microsoft's lead and embracing cloud services, according to the survey, which forecast a 19 percent increase in SMB usage of cloud services.
"We've said we're going to lead with this, sell cloud first, so clearly partners should take that posture," Steen said.
According to the survey, 74 percent of SBSC partners expect their customers to increase their number of remote workers, compared to last year's survey figure of 54 percent.
Justin Jaffe, a senior analyst with IDC, says the affordability of smartphones and notebooks is driving companies to boost their mobile work forces. The growing adoption of unified communications and VPNs is also playing a role in driving this trend, he added.
"Some forward-looking SMBs will turn the recessionary refrain of 'doing more with less' on its head, and leverage IT resources to let workers 'do more with more'," Jaffe said in an email.