This week, there has a lot of research from different companies, not least of which is Microsoft, that shows one-third of all SMBs are currently cloud-bound; HP gives further details of its “strategic vision” for SMBs; Kerio introduces an SMB collaboration space and tablets are making money for SMBs, AMI Partners says.

Microsoft, SMBs, the Cloud

Microsoft (news, site) has released its annual report -- this year called SMB Cloud Adoption Study 2011 -- which confirms that cloud computing is going to be a major player in the SMB market over the next three years.

The research shows that 39% of SMBs expect to be paying for one or more cloud services within three years, an increase of 34% from the current 29%. It also finds that the number of cloud services SMBs pay for will nearly double in most countries over the next three years.

It also shows an increasing opportunity for hosting service providers to profit in the cloud from offering services such as collaboration, data storage and backup or business-class email.

Past experience with support from a service provider is a key driver of service provider selection among SMBs, the report says, with 82% of SMBs buying cloud services from a provider with local presence being critical or important.

And the crux of it all -- Microsoft says thatit does and will be offering consumer software in a variety of ways

The research was designed and conducted with Edge Strategies in December 2010. The research questioned 3,258 SMBs that employ up to 250 employees across 16 countries worldwide.

Microsoft has been plowing this field for some time and is likely to be digging deeper later in the year with the release of Office 365.More on this report later.

HP’s SMB Strategy

HP has also been taking at hard look at the SMB market, and at the Americas Partners Conference in Las Vegas during the week, Chief Executive Officer Léo Apotheker gave further details of the “strategic vision” for connectivity and cloud computing that HP (news, site) has been talking a lot about over the past few weeks.

As the convergence of cloud and connectivity continues to redefine the technology landscape, HP and our channel partners are well-positioned to capitalize on this tremendous market opportunity,” he said.

One of the core elements of that strategy is in the SMB space, and, at the conference, he officially launched the HP SMB Central community network to enable partners to take a slice of the US$ 71 billion US SMB market.

Launched in the United States and Canada earlier this month, HP SMB Central -- an initiative that offers channel partners one-stop access to SMB sales solutions, marketing and support -- now includes an online community network.

It gives them a place to network, collaborate and share best practices for growth in the SMB market.

In addition to learning about HP and its SMB programs and solutions, the community network provides real-time collaboration with industry experts that will help partners understand how to corner more of this key market segment.

Spiceworks Predicts 8% SMB Spending Growth

So are SMBs really in the market for new products and upgrades? According to research from Spiceworks (news, site), the answer is a resounding yes!

In its recent State of SMB IT report, spending by SMBs will grow 8% in 2011 compared with budget figures from the second half of 2010. In fact, Spiceworks put the average SMB technology budget at US$ 132,000 this year, compared with US$ 121,770 in mid-2010.

The IT industry continues to show strong signs of growth as technology budgets, cloud services usage, virtualization adoption and IT staffing plans among SMBs showed their strongest gains in more than 18 months, according to the report.

Learning Opportunities

Spiceworks provides a social business network for IT with more than 1.4 million SMB IT professionals, so clearly it has an interest in this.

The study of more than 3,000 IT professionals was conducted in January and February 2011 by the Spiceworks Voice of IT Market Research Program.

It, like the Microsoft SMB Cloud Adoption Study 2011 mentioned earlier, also shows that nearly one in three SMBs use cloud services, with cloud usage among SMBs expected to rise to 42 percent.

In addition, almost one in three SMBs plan to change the way data is stored, moving more data to the cloud, with many planning to reduce their use of local system hard drives and direct-attached storage. Check out a full list of results on the Spiceworks site.

Kerio Offers Collaboration Space

Release-wise, Kerio Technologies has announced Kerio Workspace, a collaboration space that brings team’s documents, files, notes, discussions and multimedia content together in the same place.

Accessed via any web browser, Kerio Workspace enables teams to organize projects and content. Some teams will use it as a central repository for files with commented version control. Others will opt for a richer experience where files play a secondary role to creating, sharing and storing content on Web pages.

Designed for teams, workgroups and SMBs, Kerio Workspace offers the functionality of an enterprise product considerably cheaper than other enterprise offerings.

Currently available in 16 languages, pricing starts at $150 for a 5-user license. Additional user licenses are $30 each.

Tablets Good for SMBs

Finally, we couldn’t leave this week without a look at tablets. Recent AMI (news, site) research indicates that SMBs who have embraced mobility generated 40% higher revenue growth over the last 12 months compared with those who did not.

SMB tablet adoption has been highly fragmented across industries,” says Michael McDonald, Sr. Associate of Worldwide SMB Sizing for AMI-Partners. "We see the strongest interest in professional services, healthcare, hospitality and the media businesses."

Firms with tablets use SaaS applications 20% more compared with those without. Unsurprisingly, hosted document collaboration usage among tablet users is more than double that of non-tablet SMBs, while hosted productivity suite use is nearly 50% higher.