Microsoft has made a decision to include more “cloud” capability in its offerings for small business, ending the life of the successful Small Business Server line and replacing it within the Windows Server 2012 family. Some businesses are continuing with locally installed servers and are upgrading to Windows 2012 Essentials (or other editions) for in-house use, but more businesses every day are electing to deploy their servers and systems in the cloud instead.
Back when Microsoft introduced the Small Business Server, small business owners found that it was now really easy to implement way more technology in the business than they could directly support. In one happy little package the SMB could get Windows Server, Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, Remote Web Access, an internal Company Website and more. Information technology service companies, on the other hand, found it to be a big driver for delivering equipment and services to small business customers, and the product line’s adoption and implementation numbers grew. Even the smallest of businesses could enjoy enterprise-class email, file and document sharing, client-server applications and remote access for a (relatively) affordable price. It was this type of offering which created opportunity for server virtualization technologies to be used in small business, as the various server types each benefitted from their own “sandbox”, and IT providers recognized another opportunity to leverage their expertise at the customer location.
Business use of technology continues to expand rapidly so it makes sense that the Small Business Server offering from Microsoft is pretty popular. In fact, Foresitetech.com says in an article on the subject that “The overwhelming majority of small businesses (80%) with less than 75 employees use Microsoft’s Small Business Server (SBS) software.”
But this fast-paced world of technology continues to move along, and Microsoft has ended the life of the SBS 2011 product. In its place, small business customers are encouraged to upgrade to one of the editions of Windows Server 2012 as a replacement for their beloved SBS and hopefully they can find an edition which (affordably) delivers the functionality and features the business has come to rely on. Unfortunately, there isn’t an edition of Windows Server 2012 that offers quite what SBS did, so now there is a big buying decision for the customer. As the Clash sang it: “do I stay or do I go?”
Microsoft’s elimination of the feature-rich and friendly-sounding Small Business Server has created a lot of opportunity for VARs and IT service providers to move their customers to cloud services, SaaS solutions and hosted environments. Particularly as information technology continues to become more complex, small businesses (well, businesses of all sizes) are recognizing that they may be better off focusing on running the business operation and managing the company as opposed to spending a lot of focus on IT system purchasing, installation, administration and management. They have come to understand that IT services are critical to the business, but the server doesn’t have to be under the front desk or in a back closet in order to function for the business. There is simply too much evidence in the market for these business owners to ignore; shooting the server is now a viable option.
Every day more business owners are being inspired to [shoot their servers] seek out the services that will allow them to continue to benefit from innovations in technology while relieving them of the direct responsibilities of equipment purchasing, implementation, administration and lifecycle management. Cloud services deliver this capability, and channel partners and Value Added Resellers should recognize their opportunity to get inspired as well, and to start offering cloud-based and hosted services to their customers and capture the “buying decision” opportunity that Microsoft has created.
Ready. Aim. Fire.