SpiceWorks Survey Shows Increase in SMB IT Spending -- New Devices and Cloud Services Top List

By Peter Bernstein May 29, 2013

It is arguable that few entities know more about small and medium business (SMB) IT than Austin, TX-based Spiceworks. With more than 2.5 million users of its app for managing “Everything IT” for SMBs and over 1,800 advertisers, the company has its finger on the pulse of what is going on with SMBs. It is why its semi-annual survey of roughly 1,000 users worldwide is a must read. The latest survey is now available for download. For anyone interested in what is on the minds of SMB IT professionals and where they are and are not spending money, you might wish to get your hands on the full report.

Good news on SMB spending

At a high level, there is good news on the spending front, particularly if you are a device or cloud services vendor because that is where the money is flowing. You will also be interested in the four key findings:

Budgets & Spending: IT budgets have seen a dramatic boost in all but the largest SMBs

  • The average annual IT budget is now $192,000 – up $30,000 from the second half of 2012.
  • SMBs with fewer than 250 employees are seeing the biggest budget increases, while companies with 250 to 999 employees show a decline.
  • Hiring remains largely flat, with the bulk of the increased budget going to new end-user hardware purchases and, to a lesser extent, new cloud-based and hosted IT services.

Cloud: Cloud-based and hosted IT services have found a home in SMB

  • Cloud services have held steady over the last six months, with just over 60 percent of respondents using them.
  • The survey suggests that cloud services are headed for a new peak of 66 percent in the second half of 2013.
  • The smaller the SMB, the more likely they are to be using cloud services. Smaller SMBs are also using the greatest number of cloud services.

Virtualization: Server virtualization has reached new heights

  • 72 percent of respondents now use server virtualization – an increase of seven percentage points since the second half of 2012.
  • 80 percent plan to be using sever virtualization within the next six months.
  • The larger the SMB, the more likely they are using server virtualization.

Mobile: Tablets are quickly gaining ground in SMB networks and budgets.

  • Tablets continue to be the driving force in mobile tech, with 59 percent reporting they have tablets on their network—up six percentage points from six months ago, and likely rise even as e smartphone adoption has leveled off.

Just to provide a sample of the type of granularity in the report, the graphic below shows how SMB IT is using cloud-based hosted services. While the numbers track with what might be expected what is surprising is the rather low number using the cloud for hosted VoIP.

Source: Spiceworks Semi-annual Report on Small and Midsize Business Technology Plans & Purchase Intent

A few things you are likely going to want to know more about include the fact that hosted cloud services now account for roughly 12 percent of SMB IT budgets and are putting a significant dent in things like hardware, software and traditional IT services outlays. In addition, it is interesting to note that SMBs would rather buy new hardware rather than upgrade existing hardware. The survey only covers computing items like desktops, laptops, servers and the like. It would be fascinating to see how this looks on the telecommunications side of things since the only indications of what might be a trend is that when it comes to wireless networking the trend here also is to buy the latest and greatest and not upgrade what is in place—which makes sense since the wiring for wireless has already been done and the BYOD explosion is making older Wi-Fi equipment a bit of a boat anchor given all of the tablets being used for critical business functions.

Another interesting result is that while SMBs do not have a problem ditching their hardware, they hang on to their software and upgrade or renew rather than purchase new. The exception is in the obvious area of security protection where new appears to be a necessity.

As stated at the top, there is a lot of detail in the report that should be of interest including geographical, market segmentation and trend analysis. What struck me in reading through the survey is that many of the things that tend to make the headlines for larger enterprises in terms of mobility, virtualization, cloud adoption and the resulting shift of expenses from CapEx to OpEx are even more noticeable in the SMB arena. This confirms what cloud advocates have been saying for a while about SMBs being “low hanging fruit.” It also appears to validate the macro trends that IT professionals are facing regardless of their size as the very nature of how IT services are delivered goes through a major and somewhat abrupt transformation based on changing end user needs and behavior. 

There is little doubt that six months from now when the next Spiceworks survey comes out that those trends on purchasing will be confirmed. Hopefully what will also be confirmed is the SMB IT pros are seeing their budgets increased.  

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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