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Managed Services Reality Check for Small Business Owners

Somewhere between the economic panic and the managed services craze their resides a simple truth: Now is the time for all small businesses to carefully consider their IT strategies for 2009.

I'm tired of reading wild statements that say managed services and Software as a Service (SaaS) are immune to the economic turmoil. It's far more accurate to say we've reached an inflection point of sorts, where small businesses need to review what they spent on IT in 2007 and 2008 to help their planning in 2009.

Traditionally, many small businesses acquired IT assets -- PCs, servers, networks, applications and other infrastructure that they ran internally. But those acquisitions required big lump-sum capital investments.

During the current economic turmoil, we're seeing a shift in the market. Smart small businesses increasingly depend on IT services.

Much in the same way that they pay flat monthly fees for broadband and cellular services, small businesses are embracing managed services to gain far more predictable -- and far more reliable -- IT options.

Look Back to Get Ahead
If you're a small business owner or manager, take a look at your 2008 and 2007 IT expenses. Be sure to underline purchases involving storage, security and application infrastructure.

Going forward, investigate how those big-ticket items could be shifted (partially or entirely) into the cloud.

Hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of IT solutions providers now offer managed firewall and managed endpoint security services. And new cloud storage services -- such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service -- can bolster your own on-site storage area networks with key disaster recovery capabilities.

The trend certainly includes any applications you're seeking to license or "purchase." I am not suggesting that all on-premise applications will shift to the cloud. But before you build -- or buy -- your next business application, check to see if it already exists on the Web. Chances are, it does.