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8/31/2009
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Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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New Survey Questions SMB Interest In Netbooks and Cloud Computing

The results of a new Spiceworks survey shows that while more than half of small and midsize companies are using some form of cloud computing, they're still showing caution about fully embracing the technology. And only 13% of SMBs say they plan to buy netbooks. All this as the Great Recession forces SMBs to hold on to computers longer and cut key projects.

The results of a new Spiceworks survey shows that while more than half of small and midsize companies are using some form of cloud computing, they're still showing caution about fully embracing the technology. And only 13% of SMBs say they plan to buy netbooks. All this as the Great Recession forces SMBs to hold on to computers longer and cut key projects.Given the state of the economy, hardware refresh delays and project cuts aren't too surprising. In fact, the Spicewoks State Of SMB IT: Q3 2009 survey indicates that while almost 30% of SMBs upped their IT budgets in 2009, almost 40% cut tech spending. But overall, the SMB IT budget dropped just 1% to $108,000. That's helping to stability tech staffing levels, as 64% of SMBs plan to hold IT staffing levels constant for the next six months.

One way SMBs are conserving money is by cutting projects, with 61% saying they've delayed, cut back, or cancelled IT projects and purchasing plans.

spiceworksurvey

Another cost-cutting move is keeping their PCs 26% longer, from an average of 40 months to 50 months. (That's not good news for Microsoft, Apple and the PC makers, who are counting on new operating systems to jumpstart sales. In addition, a recent Intel/TechAisle study said that after three years, PC maintenance and support expenses begin to outweigh the cost of buying a new one.)

Don't Miss: How Long Should Your Business Keep Its Computers?

So, what are SMBs still spending their money on? 70% plan to buy new hardware, representing 37% of IT spending (software gets 24%). Desktops (71%) and laptops (61%) are the most popular hardware choices, followed by servers (57%), switches (35%) and printers (34%).

Surprisingly, netbooks garnered interest from only 14% of SMBs. That comes as AMI-Partners released its own survey showing that Mexican SMBs, for example, plan to buy half a million netbooks in the next 3 months! And DisplaySearch reports that overall netbook sales grew 40% from Q2 to Q3, almost twice the 22% quarter over quarter growth rate for notebooks.)

The issue, once again, is what exactly do SMBs use netbooks for? The Register wonders if the "consumer label" puts SMBs off of notebooks, and speculates the issue could be that netbooks' small form factor is "making them seem unsuited to the kinds of workers that like to load up on applications and who need lots of windows and keyboard space."

Don't Miss: Do Netbooks Really Have A Role At SMBs?

On the software side, antivirus/spam (46%), backup and recovery (38%), and virtualization (30%) top the list of upgrades and new purchases -- while security software added another 25%.

Some observers have interpreted the survey to indicate that SMBs have limited interest in cloud computing. That all depends on how you look at the numbers. The survey separates hosted IT services from cloud computing, muddying the waters a bit.

More than half of SMBs (56%) use at least one cloud service -- with Web hosting (25%), e-mail (21%) and online backup (16%) leading the way. And while use of hosted services is widespread, only 33% of SMBs plan to add a new hosted service in the next six months.

About the only thing clear from those numbers is that we're still in transition period where SMBs are using a wide variety of technologies and architectures, trying to find the mix that gives them the best combination of value, performance, reliability, security. It will be interesting to see how these numbers look next year, and the year after...

The July/August study surveyed 1,130 IT professionals in 75 countries and 22 industries, working in companies with fewer than 500 employees.

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