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Dell Launches New Small Biz Services

Dell , which recently moved its headquarters from Austin back to Round Rock, Texas, Monday debuted new services to make it easier for small businesses to purchase and get computer networks up and running.

The new suite, the first of a tiered service strategy, includes services in network design, installation and training for businesses who typically employ 100 employees or less.

Beginning in 2003, Dell will take its existing IT service and support portfolio and offering it to small- to medium-sized business (SMB) customers. The systems vendor will provide SMB customers support for software applications and peripherals manufactured by most vendors.

Frank Muehleman, senior vice president/general manager of Dell's SMB division, said the decision came from customer demand. To be sure, research firm IDC estimates the market for IT services tailored for the SMB market to bloom in 2003, with a longer term projection growth of 9.7 percent compound annual growth rate between 2001 and 2006.

"The important benefits provided by software products and services ensure that small businesses will continue to make significant investments in these areas. In particular the growing adoption levels of the Internet within this sector has resulted in a significant rise in demand for software applications that assist small businesses to service their clients needs on-line," said Kourosh Ghassemi, IDC Senior Analyst, Small Business.

As per usual, Dell is in competition with other major systems rivals, including HP , Cisco , and IBM to cater to the SMB class.

In July, HP paired with Dimension Data to jointly market and promote Dimension Data application hosting and managed services. IBM unveiled a major "e-solutions for SMBs" initiative in 2001 and has since launched an xSP Prime program for SMBs. Cisco, meanwhile, has long catered to the small business set and has already published a strategy for how it wants to tackle the SMB market in 2003.

Indeed, servicing SMBs appears to be on the rise again despite IDC's recent lowering the 2002 worldwide IT services growth rate to 6.7 percent, a reduction from the earlier forecast growth rate of 10.6 percent for the year.

Just today, Yahoo! rolled out Web hosting for SMBs, while Nortel Networks introduced Business Communications Manager (BCM) Release 3.0, which adds interactive voice response (IVR), IPSec client support, among other perks, to help drive increased revenues while reducing costs for SMBs.

Overall, IDC predicts that IT services spending worldwide will increase to $572 billion by 2006.

Breakdown of the three categories covered in the suite is as follows:

  • Network Design -- assesses the customer's hardware and software needs, as well as technician time required to build a network. With a starting price of $199, this package includes an on-site assessment from a technical expert who will review what's in place and determine what is required to design a well-rounded network or to deploy a specific hardware configuration
  • Installation -- available for Dell's entire product line, including OptiPlex and Dimension desktops, Latitude and Inspiron notebooks, Dell Precision workstations, PowerConnect switches, PowerEdge servers, PowerVault storage, and a variety of software and peripherals. For desktop, notebook and workstations, Dell said it will transfer data from the old systems to the new, as well as install the customer's software on each system
  • Dell's Business Professional Training -- targeted for customers with zero IT staff, this package includes online courses for more than 340 applications. With this $99-per-year package, enterprises with a technical staff can tap Dell for industry certification programs or schedule time with technical experts to provide more training