Network complexity, growth of cloud services and bring your own device (BYOD) trends will help drive the U.S. market for SMB tech support to a 14.4 percent compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2016, reaching nearly $25 billion by 2016, according to a new report from market research firm Parks Associates.
Major corporations like Comcast, which recently rolled out its tech-support product Signature Support, which is targeted at small businesses, and IBM, which expanded its Managed Vendor Support Services (MVSS) to support small businesses, are positioning themselves as providers of more advanced forms of tech support. Cable provider Cox Communications has plans to deploy a small- and midsize-business (SMB) version of its residential product Cox Tech Solutions this year.
"Many tech-support providers have offered SMBs a product that was, essentially, a consumer solution on steroids," Jim O'Neill, Parks Associates research analyst, said in a statement. "But as SMBs have become more dependent on 24/7 uptime, tech support providers are responding with more robust offerings. Ideally, these new products are delivered by companies that already have relationships with SMBs: service providers like ISPs, cable companies and telcos. Tech support is a great source of incremental revenue for them and also helps keep their services sticky."
The report noted SMB employees are also increasingly bringing their own devices into the workplace, and the introduction of this technology, particularly Google Android-based tablets and smartphones running a variety of apps, creates new challenges in network maintenance and heightens the risk of a data breach or piece of malware corrupting the company network.
"Education will continue to be a major component in tech support for small businesses, especially for those micro SMBs that rely heavily on uninterrupted computer function but encourage BYOD to save costs," O'Neill said. "Small-business owners can spend up to 20 hours a month solving IT issues. Support providers need to develop tools that target those lost hours."
Tech-support specialists will also be able to take advantage of small businesses moving to the cloud, which allows SMBs to reduce software and hardware spending but requires complex integration that support partners could provide. Cloud services popular with SMBs include collaboration, data backup, storage and customer relationship management (CRM), according to the report.
The cloud services market reached $45 billion in 2012, as at least 6 million SMBs entered the cloud space for the first time last year, and the global market will continue to expand at a 28 percent CAGR through 2015 to $95 billion, according to a recent report from Parallels, a hosting and cloud services specialist.