The economic picture may look bleak right now, but 2008 should see a huge take-up of technology among small and medium businesses (SMBs) in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 2010 Fifa World Cup. 

This is what Yergen Govendor, business unit manager: Enterprise Storage & Server Group at HP, believes. He says SMBs should consider how technology can be used as an enabler to enhance the service experience for tourists visiting South Africa.
“All SMBs should ask themselves the question: What are the opportunities presented by the biggest ever sporting event to be hosted in South Africa; and what technology should I invest in today to enable me to take advantage of these opportunities?”
Govender believes that smaller businesses can effectively utilise technology to bring to market new products and services, as well as apply technology to solve problems associated with an influx of visitors, for example in the hospitality industry.  The two key areas that smaller businesses should take cognisance of are information security and modernisation.
As threats become more sophisticated and diverse, organisations should consider developing and deploying a comprehensive security strategy as opposed to an uncoordinated collection of precautions to protect multiple points of vulnerability. Organisations need to protect hardware, data, applications, operating systems and networks and should also consider broader security management solutions and services to detect and repair vulnerabilities and keep security defences up to date.
In order to remain competitive, any organisation has to innovate and modernise, Govendor adds. When looking at modernisation within a technology context businesses should consider application, infrastructure and services modernisation:
* Application modernisation: Today, many organisations are able to trace the constraints of their business performance back to the limitations of their older application and system architecture – specifically to outdated, legacy applications. While the benefits of application modernisation are clear, businesses are often left in a state of indecision as the modernisation path is unclear and return on investment difficult to quantify. The benefits of modernisation, however, include reduced risks, improved business agility, lower total cost of ownership as well as a shift from IT maintenance towards innovation.
* Infrastructure modernisation: This involves the improvement of an organisation’s existing IT environment by creating a more flexible and adaptive IT infrastructure. Approaches include the consolidation of servers and storage, data migration for easier and faster access to information as well as the deployment of new virtualisation and management tools.
* Services: The question small and mid-size businesses should be asking is: “How do I modernise my environment – affordably, and without getting rid of what I already have and starting from scratch?” The recommended approach is to start with an assessment of applications, hardware and businesses goals – and from there decide on the modernisation options that will result in the greatest benefits.
Research conducted by HP in the mid-market segment has revealed that mid-sized businesses approach IT in a practical, project-oriented way with an expectation of fast payback.
According to Govender, today’s mid-size business has to balance the implementation of its IT infrastructure with the lack of specialised IT professionals while balancing management’s budgetary means and business expectations with proven ROI.
“More importantly, mid-size companies’ IT departments must provide tangible business outcomes that illustrate how IT purchasing decisions can accelerate business growth, lower costs and mitigate risks,” adds Govender.
Growth and profitability are among the most important business goals for mid-size companies. The correct technology is vital to midsize companies looking to grow, however, most have smaller IT budgets and staff. Given their limited budgets and IT staffing resources, midsized businesses require simple, affordable and reliable server and storage technology solutions to address the challenges of business continuity, security and operational efficiency.  
Govender advises small and mid-size companies to take advantage of and invest in the correct technologies today to ensure that they can stay competitive in the lead up to 2010.