The Next Debate: Scaled Up Or Down?

Published for the Week Of July 26, 2004

s the battle for the small-business market heats up, an interesting debate is brewing among both vendors and solution providers. I have been pushing the point that this is the year we will see enterprise technology hit the small-business market in a big way.

But a few vendors that specialize in the small-business space take exception to what I have been saying. Small businesses don’t need pared-down enterprise technology, they argue. Small businesses want solutions designed specifically for their needs by companies that understand their needs, they say.

There will always be a point at which a technology solution becomes too complex for a small business to justify the administrative costs. Small businesses need more advanced e-mail to deal with remote workers, antivirus and spam concerns, but do they need to deal with the, er, complexity of an Exchange server? They need more robust networks to support their increasingly mobile workforces, but do they need the, uh, sophistication of Cisco’s IOS? Maybe, maybe not.

For their part, enterprise vendors argue that they have the engineering prowess to bring complex technology down to a level that is manageable and affordable for a small business.

Solution providers, too, are weighing in. Small-business specialists are begrudging the midmarket VARs targeting their customers with overblown products at bargain-basement prices. And those midmarket VARs deride solutions from small-business-focused vendors as toys, or “great for a home office.”

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Whether the enhanced features come from a pared-down enterprise offering or a scaled-up small-business offering, they are needed and increasingly more available.

From where I sit, no matter where the product comes from, more choices are good for small businesses and the solution providers that serve them. May the debate continue.

Larry Hooper is editor of CRN 's Selling Small Business and managing editor/special reports at CRN. Contact him via e-mail at [email protected] .