The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: April 2008

IT for the SMB

1 April 2008

Virtualisation is not only for enterprise computing.
The small and medium business (SMB) sector has been recognised as one of the fastest growing sectors in the South African economy, contributing significantly to the country's annual GDP. To retain and grow individual market share in this highly competitive sector, the SMB is turning to technology to manage costs, retain staff and finance expansion.
Technological solutions to address these pain points are available to SMBs. Virtualisation is an example of this. It is an application delivery solution that enables the SMB to provide users with remote and secure access to any mission critical application that the company wishes to supply. The virtualisation market has grown significantly in recent times widening the array of tools available to SMBs.
Nick Keene, country manager, Citrix Systems Southern Africa
Nick Keene, country manager, Citrix Systems Southern Africa
Staff retention
One of the major problems facing small businesses is the recruitment and retaining of quality staff. Replacing a lost staff member can be an expensive exercise for any organisation. According to research conducted by The Resource Development Group, in the first year of losing a worker, it costs a company three times the annual salary of that worker in replacement costs.
Workforce mobility is recognised as a viable staff retention strategy for organisations at all levels, including SMBs. Enabling employees to work from anywhere at any time has proved to be an effective way of increasing their level of job satisfaction, thus allowing the organisation to retain its quality staff members.
Unfortunately, traditional mobility is not the most affordable solution to rollout. Simply because deploying remote access solutions has been an expensive exercise in the past, requiring a huge financial investment. The introduction of several affordable technological innovations, specifically geared towards small and medium enterprises, is offering cost-effective and secure mobility as a solution.
Solutions such as virtualisation have enabled the SMB to deliver mission critical applications to their employees, allowing them to work remotely from any device, at a fraction of the cost.
Increased worker mobility increases staff satisfaction, but can compromise the security of an SMB's data.
With virtualisation however, this risk is eliminated as the information is merely displayed on the user's device when needed, and the connection is cut off as soon as the user logs off.
Without the necessary password information, no one can access the company server through a lost or stolen device. To further ensure that the safety of mission critical information is not compromised, virtualisation technology is able to interrogate the device and limit the user's access to information dependent on the security of their device. An employee working from an insecure Internet café, for instance, can be limited to read-only access, while an employee working from a corporate device may have greater access.
Cost saving
Another area in which technology has helped SMBs is in the reduction of operating costs. SMBs are arguably one the most cost sensitive of all sectors in our economy, with a slight increase in costs having the potential of either making or breaking the margins for the company. Regular upgrades to the IT infrastructure, for instance, are important to any organisation, but the costs can be prohibitive to small organisations.
From the physical equipment to software licensing, IT upgrades can easily run into the thousands. By licensing and loading new software versions on to a central server and delivering these to all users using virtualisation technology, small companies can now afford to upgrade their entire office infrastructure to the latest software versions available at a fraction of the cost.
Rudimentary tasks such as system migration, backup, and recovery, as well as debugging and performance monitoring also become easier and more manageable eliminating the need to outsource.
The benefits of virtualisation far exceed mobility and security strategies, as it also allows for branch office expansion. Setting up a new office or expanding existing operations can be a costly exercise. There is equipment that needs to be purchased and network infrastructures to be constructed. It is in this context that virtualisation once again proves its mantle as a useful business tool for the growing SMB.
Through remote access solutions, any office or even a residential space can be converted into a fully functional satellite office, with only Internet connectivity, either wired or wireless, being a requirement.
These are just some of the problems that can be solved through virtualisation.
For the SMB, the perfect solution is one that is cost efficient, offers ease of implementation, is a definite return on investment, allows expansion, and maintains the integrity of the company's data and intellectual property. Virtualisation as a solution fulfils all these requirements.

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