Business Classifications for IT Management

SOHO, SMB, Enterprise—Which one describes your organization?

Adjusting Your Approach


After reading this, if you think you're between SOHO and SMB, but you're not sure, this is probably because you wonder if you could have a more reliable IT system, a setup that allows easier sharing of files and printers, and better backups and confidentiality, but you don't know what to buy beyond what you find online or at the office supply store. Or, you might feel like everything is just disorganized, you lose track of software licenses, provisioning new equipment seems to take too long, your wireless performs poorly, or problems take too long to get fixed.

If this is the case, start by looking at your IT support. If you don't have an IT service provider, then of course your first step is to find one that's qualified at least to install and manage SMB-grade equipment. If you have one, then tell them you're willing to invest in an upgraded level of equipment to improve the performance and reliability of your IT system.

Your IT provider should then recommend migration to SMB equipment, such as installing a local server, building a network backup system, or upgrading your network equipment or edition of Windows. Ask for an explanation of how these will provide what you're looking for—whether it's improved resilience, reliability, performance, manageability, or security. If they can't explain this, or they seem focused on selling products from only one vendor, they may not have your best interests in mind, and you should find another provider.

SMB or Enterprise

Let's say you know you have a solid SMB approach that seems appropriate for your business. You have a competent IT service provider, who has implemented point solutions that satisfy your basic needs, such as local file storage, data backup, segmented and manageable network communications, security software, and cloud applications. But, if you wonder when you should transition to an enterprise approach as your business grows, you can use this article as a guide.

Or, you may know for sure your business should use an enterprise approach, but you don't. Either your executive management won't approve budgets for the required acquisitions, or your IT system managers don't have the training or experience to evaluate and deploy enterprise solutions and are thus prone to recommend only SMB-grade point solutions. In this case, you should find a way to document how these impediments are costing the company in lost productivity, excessive downtime, incidents of data loss, or unnecessarily complex management. When you can show that all this could be resolved with an enterprise-class solution, resulting in better value for your investments, you can get those upgrade budgets approved, and invest in more qualified IT system managers to manage them.

Finally, you might have an outsourced IT service provider that has sold you on some enterprise-grade equipment or software upgrades, but you now know that your business doesn't have and doesn't need an enterprise-class IT system. In this case, you may find that you've paid for features and capabilities you don't need or can't use. With your new knowledge from this article, you can more properly assess the value of proposals by asking any future IT service providers what less expensive options are available if he seems to be offering unnecessarily high-grade products, and to explain why his offerings best fit your requirements.

Doing Your Own Research

For our final words, we'll talk about when you're researching products yourself, and come across these categories (or division by number of users) on a vendor's website.

First, as you have learned from this article, if products are categorized by number of users, this has almost no meaning above maybe ten users. Obviously, in all cases, avoid Home/Consumer products, meaning you should make sure you're on the Business section of the website. Once there, anything for under ten users will be SOHO at best, so if you're researching SMB products, skip that category. Anything divided at numbers such as 250 or 500 will probably reflect the product's performance capacity within the SMB market. And the higher thresholds (above 1,000 or 10,000) will indicate the enterprise products.

Next, if the site categorizes its products using the terms we've discussed (SOHO, SMB, or enterprise), you'll get a good idea of where to look. You should look at the next level up or down, too, to make sure the vendor's conception of these classifications is the same as ours. And when comparing products from different vendors, keep in mind there can be overlap: A product, designed by one vendor for an SMB with a large budget or high performance needs, might be the same or better than a similar product from another vendor that has the Enterprise label.

If you find you're looking at different editions of a specific software product, there's no easy way to translate the edition names to what you need. Generally, something labeled Standard or Professional is for SMB, while Advanced, Enterprise, or Datacenter should be for an enterprise. But, when looking at editions of a specific product, keep in mind you've gone directly into the weeds, and you need to look at details on the features that are available in each edition and evaluate them in light of your technological and business process requirements.

Once you've found products that seem to have the features you need, and the pricing appears to be within your budget, you should certainly ensure that your IT support provider is qualified to integrate this into your existing system, and to upgrade your system and your management processes if this new product can't simply be dropped in as-is.

Of course, in any case, your best move is to contact J.D. Fox Micro for help with your IT system management, whether you're the smallest SOHO, a solid SMB, or building an enterprise.