Gartner estimatesthat the average IT budget is around three percent of revenue. For a firm with less than R5-million in revenue, this may only amount to R150 000, and when it comes to purchasing the type of ICT equipment that allows SMBs to keep pace with larger companies, this budget does not go very far.
In theory, the capabilities of today’s ICT infrastructure level the playing field and offer SMBs the means to directly compete with larger companies equipped with commensurate budgets.
SMBs strive to gain every advantage by utilising remote sites and regional branches and need the requisite ICT equipment to function competitively across multiple sites.
To address the issue, SMBs will purchase and utilise discrete equipment on an à la carte basis to accommodate a number of services including voice, wireless access, security, storage, routing and email.
This is not the most efficient solution since it often involves using multiple methods of provisioning and management and the products are, more than likely, sourcedfrom different vendors.
Not only is this an inefficient solution, but the approach is fraught with problems and challenges that result in increased total cost of ownership over the long run.
Purchasing the necessary equipment constitutes a high initial investment. Managing multiple vendors is both time and resource consuming and ongoing maintenance and management costs are inherently unconsolidated. Performance can be sub-optimal due to a lack of conformity across the various products.
Perhaps most importantly, there is a cost that results from operating and maintaining multiple, disparate products. Individual updates, downtime and service requests scattered across multiple vendors means that staff time and resources go largely toward maintaining multiple devices. This level of fragmentation is not sustainable in the long run.
An alternative method on which some SMBs rely is a one-size-fits-all ICT solution. This is essentially a scaled-down version of enterprise-level ICT infrastructure. This approach also fails because the needs of SMBs vary greatly from those of an enterprise.
By simply scaling down ICT infrastructure, it can compromise functionality and performance. Moreover, this type of solution is not necessarily future proof and is therefore an ineffective long term use of an SMBs relatively small IT budget. What, then, is the answer for the SMB?
A multi-service gateway is a viable solution that improves the one-size-fits-all approach. Instead of merely cramming all the functionality into one device without regard for the issues of complexity, scalability and ease of management, this solution incorporates each of these factors into its design and function.
Several vendors offer products that were designed from the ground up with SMBs specifically in mind. The products are simplified, easy to manage and embody a significant reduction in upfront and ongoing costs.
In addition, multi-service gateways smoothly incorporate the required security. This is a crucial point because, as businesses integrate internet communications, security and reliability become increasingly important.
A company’s business is intimately linked to its IT infrastructure, and whether or not this infrastructure can adequately handle internet security is crucial to a company’s business.
Furthermore, the business utility of the internet continues to grow. Businesses now engage multimedia, online applications and cloud computing on a daily basis. It is important therefore to employ ICT infrastructure that is designed for and able to address the new security challenges that these technologies pose.
Huawei Symantec, for instance, offers the Secospace USG2000 BSR/HSR, a next-generation multi-service gateway solution that integrates security, routing and switching, wireless access and voice service functions.
It is an all-in-one device that can provide IP routing and flexible network connections, and helps assure businesses of end-to-end security. The USG2000 is scalable to best fit the needs of SMBs.
It is compatible with a variety of internet access technologies, ranging from older technologies to 3G, and SMBs are able to use either legacy technologies or more advanced technologies without having to downgrade or upgrade the entire network.
HSR, which is a high-end security product of the USG2000 series, is able to ensure basic network security while also providing professional security functions such as anti-virus, invasion detection and URL filtering. These functions combine high-quality performances with simple maintenance procedures, using Huawei Symantec’s global, real-time synchronisation service.
The market has ably evolved to cater to the communication and security needs of SMBs. Multi-service gateways are not revolutionary, per se, but they specifically address the needs of SMBs. They enable the delivery of converged multimedia, data and voice streams, and are future proof. They include allowances for additional services such as hosted applications and content delivery.
The notion of convergence has long been touted as the overarching solution for SMBs. Multi-service gateways are a true convergence product, and for SMBs who need to do more with less, they represent the ultimate communications and security solution.