Terms such as affordability, return on investment, service delivery, reduced downtime, and after-sales support strike a chord with any SMB. Yet, when it comes to IT solutions, SMBs are often not aware that there are dedicated solutions designed to meet their needs. Instead, many of them implement more mainstream solutions that are available at a fraction of the cost of dedicated business hardware.
"While the price of these solutions is an attractive lure, SMBs will inevitably run into difficulties when the mission-critical aspect of these hardware offerings is found lacking," says Greg Pothitos, HP ESG product manager at Tarsus Technologies.
"Even consumer devices do not offer the same scalability as that of SMB solutions," he adds. "One such area is on the backup front. It is worrying to see how many SMBs are burning data to CDs and DVDs as a primary backup strategy."
Pothitos says that this has led to a steady decline in tape backup sales.
"Admittedly, tape backup pricing cannot compete with the low cost of disks. However, companies need to be aware that these alternatives do not offer the same lifecycle as that of tape solutions," he says.
External hard drives are also used as an alternative to tape media, but these devices are far more easily damaged. If someone should accidentally knock a USB hard drive off a desk, the information will be lost. Not to mention that these small devices are also more prone to being stolen.
"External hard drives are definitely less expensive, making them a more attractive solution to many companies," he continues. "However, tape drives have no viruses and the integrity of the data is virtually guaranteed when compared to the non-existent assurances we get from the warranties on external drives.
"Sadly, tape drives are simply not keeping up with technology in terms of storage capacity and lower prices. A bigger problem is that there are still companies who do not make any backups."
This, he says, is due to a combination of poor education and the fact that people simply don't know that they have to make backups.
"Companies are willing to spend thousands of rands on hardware but often neglect to give their data the attention it deserves.
"Vendors should be more responsible and start educating their customers on the importance of having a data backup strategy. With this in mind, vendors also need to spend more time and money on training and better understand the backup requirements of their customers, so that they are perfectly positioned to adequately motivate why tape solutions should be the standard for backups."
In addition to having an effective backup strategy and solutions in place, Pothitos believes that SMBs also need to look closely at the servers they choose to install. He says that desktop machines are becoming increasingly more powerful with some of the high-end models entering the market at very competitive prices. Some companies view these systems as viable alternatives to more costly dedicated servers.
"There should, however, be no cutting corners in the back office. It is simply a case of getting the right equipment designed for the job. SMBs should therefore always buy the solution that is designed specifically for that job. Running server-class applications on a desktop computer is a recipe for disaster.
"Ultimately, SMBs need to be aware that there are solutions in the market that are designed with their needs in mind. It is a case of making the investment now in order to benefit from it in the future."