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June 22, 2011

2 Min Read
Beating the Big Boxes at SMB Tech Support

By Dan Berthiaume

Any survey conducted by a retailer needs to be taken with one or several grains of salt, but results of a new survey on the technology needs of small businesses is are still worth checking out by any MSPs whose clientele includes SMBs. According to the newest edition of the Office Depot Small Business Index, technology issues among small businesses are common, with 75% of respondents citing that they have had a computer repaired at some point in time. A majority of these repairs were due to virus/malware issues (43%) or hardware issues (40%).

While most small businesses have technology issues, the survey shows having onsite resources to address those issues is rare. A mere 7% have an onsite computer technician, while 52% rely on third-party companies to solve their IT problems.

Productivity Suffers

No company can afford to be anything less than productive in today’s economic climate, but small businesses must be especially efficient to obtain a competitive advantage on larger rivals. So survey findings that 48% of respondents took two to three days to get their computers fixed and 67% say technology issues have hindered their ability to do their jobs indicate small businesses face a potential competitive crisis as a result of not having a reliable source of help when IT issues arise.

Seeing through the Spin

No big surprise, Office Depot is basically using this survey as a come-on for their Tech Depot service, which addresses issues such as data services, wireless networking, software installation, PC diagnosis and repair. However, assuming that the results of the survey are at least mostly valid, a look through the Office Depot spin shows a big opportunity for MSPs.

With all due respect to big box retailers and their tech support services, the fact remains they are primarily helpful for individuals or very small companies that only have a handful of employees. For “larger” SMBs whose technical environment consists of more than basic hardware and a wireless internet network, retail tech support will not likely do the trick. But the need is there.

Beating the Big Boxes

MSPs looking to obtain SMB clients can definitely pursue the angle of helping to avoid potentially catastrophic shutdowns, while eliminating the need to hire costly onsite IT staff and offering more robust, reliable support than can be obtained at the local shopping plaza. And considering how frequently virus and hardware issues appear to be the culprit in SMB technology issues, MSPs serving this market should be sure to offer full competency in these areas.

Big box retailers are better than MSPs at a lot of things. Helping SMBs effectively deal with IT issues should not be one of them.

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