Seven Trends at CompTIA's SMB Summit

I have spent the past two days at CompTIA's SMB Summit in Bonita Springs, Florida. Many of the discussions here involved managed services. Here are seven key themes at the event as they relate to running your business.

7. Real Estate Nomads: Need to find some sales pros fast? Former real estate agents -- bruised by the housing market collapse -- often make fantastic hires in the VAR market, noted Richard Cole, CEO of Geeks on Call America (aka 1-800-905-Geek).

6. Accounting Matters: Several attendees noted that they are now helping their SMB customers to better manage their annual business budgets. If you can convince a small business to open up their books to you, it's far easier to design IT lease agreements and managed services contracts that fit that customer's overall business needs.

5. Go Really Small: A few solutions providers said they now use managed services platforms (Kaseya, N-able, Level Platforms, etc.) to oversee super small customer settings, including home offices with only one to three computers.

4. Low Cost of Entry: Instead of outright buying MSP platforms, some VARs are using hosted third-party services as a low-cost way to extend managed services to their customers. One prime example: More and more VARs seem to be signing up for hosted managed services from SecureMyCompany.com.

3. Apple Who?: The VAR Guy entered one session with his MacBook Pro and iPhone. When he asked attendees if they recommend or promote Apple solutions, the answer was universal: It's still a Windows world. The VAR Guy doesn't entirely agree, but it's difficult to debate a bunch of folks who make a healthy living cleaning up infected Windows machines.

2. Fifty Percent: During a quick show of hands, roughly half of the attendees said they currently offer managed services -- and roughly 80 percent plan to do so in 2008. Several attendees who were PC resellers in the 1980s said they came out of retirement because of the MSP opportunities ahead.

1. What Is A Managed Service?: Lots of definitions are floating around. But attendees in one round table discussion agreed that managed services are any service -- either remote or on-site -- that you deliver as part of a monthly service contract.

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