The evolution of technology has meant that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) no longer need to be responsible for IT in the traditional sense. In fact, they have surpassed their larger counterparts as early adopters of the latest cloud-based services.
The SME’s requirements are clear: compute, connect, communicate, and backup their data. The hosted environment provides the perfect way to do just that. It offers scalability, redundancy, and security; all with enormous convenience and highly cost effective.
But, the one critical enabler for all of this, of course, is internet connectivity.
After all – cloud-enabled businesses rely on uninterrupted connectivity, in some ways even more than they rely on electricity.
South African businesses have adapted well to having standby batteries, solar backups and generators at the ready for when Eskom decides to fail us. But in the same way, businesses need to have backups for when their Internet provision fails. Fortunately, because there is competition in the connectivity market between access mediums, as well as between providers, second- and third-tier failover options are available.
SMEs are developing much closer and more demanding relationships with their connectivity and ICT providers. They need partners who can help them make strategic decisions about which services and infrastructure to invest in, and how to get the best available service within their budget. Now more than ever, customer service is a critical differentiator.
As a result of the commoditization of technology, service and solution providers need to find ways to differentiate themselves beyond their products. The current situation is that very few people trust the intentions of ISPs, and to some extent, this is warranted as the interest of the customer is often secondary to the bottom line of the business.
For example, if you are a network provider, it is in your interest to sell your network solutions irrespective of whether there is a perfect customer fit or not.
The service and solutions providers best suited to a changing ICT environment will be the ones who have zero interest in specific vendor solutions – the aggregators, who consider the best interests of the customer. The companies able to excel are those that can provide multiple tailored models as opposed to one specific solution – it is a case of providing customers with service levels that show they are not small fish in a big pond. Businesses that rely on a single network provider for their connectivity are putting themselves at risk.
Businesses, irrespective of size, should be able to move if one network is no longer serving their needs – or even a combination of networks – without changing your service provider. This, we believe, is the link that’s been missing in the industry.
The ideal solution is to become aligned with a service provider who offers the business service layer that links multiple networks to multiple clients.
And this is exactly what SMEs are starting to do.
Technology is a means to an end – not a business feature that takes hold of them and prevents them from going about their day-to-day operations. For those SMEs willing to embrace this new order, the inevitable next step is to leave their more traditional competitors in their wake.