There has been quite an amount of research done on SMB technology this week, the most striking showing that SMBs want affordable, sophisticated collaboration tools. Two tools announced this week were the cloud-based BPM from IBM and the security offerings from AVG. There is also a question mark over the usefulness of social media for SMEs in the UK.

SMBs Want Enterprise Collaboration

Seems that SMBs are no longer happy with regular tools like email, calendars, document sharing and even the telephone. According to new research from the SMB Group, one of the biggest concerns for SMBs -- and everyone else for that matter -- is enterprise collaboration and how best to do it.

The report entitled Moving Beyond Email – The Era of SMB Online Collaboration Suites, says that SMBs are looking for the most effective ways of making information easier to find, share and use as well as to connect with the right people at the right time -- on any device.

And over the next 12 months a quarter of SMBs intend to invest in new collaboration software to enable them to do just that.

Of course where’s there’s need, there’s opportunity. And many vendors, having identified this need, have released integrated online suites of collaboration tools that will fit both SMB needs and pockets.

The study also looks at these solutions and offers detailed profiles and comparisons of Google Apps for Business, HyperOffice, IBM LotusLive, Microsoft BPOS, OnePlace, Salesforce Chatter, VMware, Zimbra, and Zoho Business. If you want to find out more check it out here.

IBM Announces 'Lite' SaaS Based BPM

And speaking of enterprise collaboration, if you missed it earlier this week, IBM (news, site) has finally announced November 20 as the launch date for Blueworks Live, a rebranded and upgraded version of Blueprint that enables users to create ‘lite’ BPM apps that are more responsive and agile than the bigger BPM suites.

While the original Blueprint app, which enabled users to model and refine processes, will still be available and free, Blueworks Live is targeted at the SMB market and will cost US$ 10 per user/month.

It will also enable team collaboration on daily tasks that would normally be carried out by less easily managed applications like email, while users will be able to automate all processes and benefit from Process Apps templates containing checklists and approvals.

IBM is also marketing its new WebSphere Lombardi Edition as an easy-to-use business process management solution for building and managing process applications with real time monitoring and analytics.

Cloud-based Data Recovery

With all that collaboration, Storage Strategies NOW (SSG-NOW), in other research, says that SMBs are now buckling under a mountain of data that was once present in only very large enterprises.

And because the reality of it all seems to have sneaked up on vendors without them really noticing, there are few data and disaster recovery solutions that suit either the size of the enterprise or the pockets of SMBs.

As a result SMBs are moving to cloud-based technologies and away from tape to disk-based or cloud-based backup as their primary mode of data protection.

SSG-NOW ‘s report Data Protection and Recovery in the Small and Mid-sized Business looks at how technologies such as backup and recovery software, hardware appliances, hosted services and target arrays can help SMBs protect their data.

The report aims to simplify the market so enterprises can identify what they are looking for and has three principal findings:

  1. A disconnect exists between the size of the business and the amount of data it needs to protect.
  2. SMBs are moving to cloud-based technologies because of a lack of IT resources.
  3. SMBs are moving away from tape to disk-based or cloud-based backup as their primary mode of backup.

The report is available from SSG-NOW ‘s website.

AVG Releases Security Software

However, while data overload and data recovery is a problem, there are an increasing amount of security offerings for SMBs, the latest of which are AVG's Internet Security 2011 Business Edition, and AVG Antivirus 2011 Business Edition.

There is considerable competition in the market from the likes of Microsoft (news, site) which recently made its Microsoft Security Essentials solution available for free for up to 10 PCs for SMBs, and McAfee (news site).

But AVG is setting prices aimed at budgets firmly in the SMB space. And it seems to have had some success already with a number of large clients located around the globe attracted by not just the price but also the ease of use and functionality that offers enterprises a global view of what’s going on across their networks.

A one year, five seat license for AVG Internet Security Business Edition 2011 starts at US$ 247.99, and a two seat license for AVG Antivirus 2011 Business Edition is US$ 89.99.

UK SMB’s Question Social Media

Finally, a new survey from the UK's Forum of Private Business shows that over half of SMBs are using social media with 52% connected to websites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

That said, while they’ve signed up to them, a lot are still unsure as to their value with 6% of businesses judging them useless and a further 21% saying they were ‘not useful’. Only 7% of respondents who use social media described it as ‘very useful', with 18% describing it as useful.

This was not a small survey. It was carried out by the Forum for Small Business in the UK and across 5800 of its members who were asked whether they were using it or not.

Another interesting figure shows that nationally, 19% of SMEs still do not have a website. Of the Forum members who do have websites, 76% said they used them to list contact details, 74% said they used their sites to provide product information and 35% found their websites useful for generating sales leads.

Another interesting response was that when asked what are the drawbacks to increased use of technology, 71% listed time spent in dealing with unwanted emails as their biggest concern.