The IT slump of recent years has spurred many IT professionals to start their own small business or go to work for a consulting firm. Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 can help maximize the benefits of consulting for both consultants and their small-business clients. Let's examine some ways in which SBS 2003 helps consultants and clients benefit from value-added systems management services.
SBS Services = Profits
Many small-business consultants emphasize the initial sale when they should concentrate on generating recurring revenue. Consider the business model of a security-monitoring company. The company installs the same security alarm hardware for each of its small-business customers and charges a monthly fee for monitoring the alarm system. The company at best breaks even on the initial sale but makes a big profit on the ongoing monitoring service.
Generating recurring revenue for value-added services is the key to maximum profit, and SBS 2003 offers many opportunities for small-business consultants to provide such services at a reasonable price. Introduced in September 2003, SBS 2003 consists of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services, and the Microsoft Outlook client. The professional version of SBS also includes Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2003. Taking their cue from the security-monitoring model, consultants are installing SBS 2003 as a standard platform for small businesses. SBS 2003 benefits consultants and small businesses alike by offering centralized management, consistency, security, and availability.
Management and Integration
SBS 2003 includes remote management and monitoring software, which generates reports that an administrator or consultant can periodically read and analyze. This feature offers small businesses a prime opportunity to centralize management services. Many consultants charge small-business clients $200 to $500 a month for remotely managing and monitoring their systems. Consultants benefit because the service encourages long-term relationships with clients, who in turn gain reliable monitoring of their infrastructure and the consultants' troubleshooting services.
Another high-value service enabled by SBS 2003 is SharePoint Services, a useful platform for building intranet applications and integrating Microsoft Office functionality. SharePoint Services includes numerous applets that provide many features and require little programming. Furthermore, a consultant can create and install SharePoint applications remotely, which is cost-effective for the small-business client as well as the consultant.
Affordable Server-Based Utilities
Many small businesses probably can't afford to install and manage separate server-based utilities. But because SBS 2003 is based on Windows 2003, all the backup, networking, virus scanning, spam control, patch management, and other server-based utilities that run on Windows 2003 work in an SBS environment. With SBS, a consultant can set up these services for clients and manage them centrally, similar to the way an enterprise IT shop manages many remote offices. For example, rather than use a low-end, client-based virus scanner, a consultant could put an industrial-strength, server-based scanner on SBS to trap viruses before they hit the Exchange server.
With SBS 2003, small businesses can also gain a superior backup and recovery system that promises 99.9 percent uptime. This is possible using the remote replication, failover, and message-level recovery features of high-end storage management software. Again, a small business probably couldn't afford such enterprise-class services on its own, but a consultant can offer these features at a reasonable price by centrally managing the services and spreading the cost over many clients.
Helping Customers—Maximizing Profits
"In the past, we had to make our money up front," said Rod Taguchi, director of network services at InfoGroup Northwest, an IT consulting firm in Eugene, Oregon. "Now we see recurring revenue with remote support. We can do any administration work remotely with SBS." Taguchi and many other small-business consultants are realizing that recurring revenue is the way to go. SBS 2003 gives consultants a practical platform for reaching that profitable goal while offering small businesses affordable enterprise-class features and support.