SMB Support: Beware The Big Box!

If your SMB goes looking for a remote support provider, you'll find plenty of options. But in this case, bigger definitely does not equal better.
If your SMB goes looking for a remote support provider, you'll find plenty of options. But in this case, bigger definitely does not equal better.Maybe you have seen one of Best Buy's recent TV ads for its Geek Squad remote support service. Such ads are clearly intended to catch the attention of consumers, not business owners. But that doesn't mean Best Buy isn't gunning for the lucrative SMB market.

In fact, Best Buy thinks small-business managed IT services represent an enormous opportunity. As this article makes clear, it has actually been honing an SMB strategy for several years now: In a presentation at a Bear Stearns retail conference in New York a few months ago, Tom Healy summed up Best Buy Co. Inc.'s grand ambition in a single sentence.

"We'd like to change the way that small businesses buy IT," said Healy, the executive vice president of Best Buy for Business, the electronics retailer's SMB division.

Those Microsoft partners who sell Windows and other software to small businesses -- especially those who provide simple servers, e-mail and networks to very small companies -- may not be aware that this consumer giant has designs on its market segment. But Best Buy is well aware of the Microsoft SMB partner community and its massive customer base. Value-added resellers that offer remote support and other managed IT services to SMBs are obviously concerned. Best Buy has the marketing resources to make quite a splash, and its Geek Squad ads suggest that it's ready to do a cannonball into the pool.

But does it make sense to buy your company's managed IT services from a company that also sells vacuum cleaners and DVDs?

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In principle, this model could work for some businesses, especially those in the SOHO market. That is especially true if a provider can combine commodity-priced services with strict quality control and clear, easy-to-understand packaging options.

In practice, Best Buy illustrates everything that can possibly go wrong with trusting your company's IT infrastructure to a big-box retailer.

Well, almost everything.

For proof, consider a recent expose of Best Buy's seedy attempts to bait-and-switch PC buyers with overpriced "pre-optimization" packages. The only thing this scheme appears to optimize, however, is Best Buy's bottom line.

Would you trust your company's IT support to a provider whose "experts" engage in this sort of buffoonery?

MSPmentor's Joe Panettieri has a very sensible take on Best Buy's efforts. "As we grow our own business," he writes, "we carefully consider who is allowed to access our back-end systems.

"I don't expect that list to ever include Geek Squad."

Remote support, like other managed IT services, is a great way to manage you company's technology infrastructure -- if you make informed choices about whom to entrust with this responsibility. And the evidence so far suggests that entrusting it to a big-box retailer is an extremely unwise decision.