Small Businesses live by there online presence these days specifically during the holiday shopping season. Many small business also do not have the IT staff to maintain such a presence with the agility required when problems occur. In addition, they may also lack the basic management, networking, security, and storage knowledge to properly maintain this online presence internally, so they move their systems into hosting environments as virtual or physical machines or into the cloud. This begs the question of what service level such SMBs require?
Since these systems are now critical to a small business, any downtime, or lack of agility in response to customers or problems will result in loss of revenue. There are two scenarios I would like to discuss, the first is a shop that uses a hosting company with very few VMs, and the other hosts everything locally with many VMs.
Hosting Company with Very few VMs
In this case the SMB has decided to use a hosting company and after consulting with a virtualization expert has virtualized a few of their servers, mainly for internal and development uses, but not their main servers which receive close to a billion hits per day. This may be possible to virtualize but the cost would be excessive. This SMB made the choice to receive the highest level of service they could afford to get. They have developers and administrators available 24/7 to fix any issues with their online presence. Their feeling, it costs more, but they get exactly what they need and they protect their bottom line.
Even so, virtual machines crash regularly and the hosting company does not appear to be incredibly responsive to their needs as they do not respond as desired
Everything Locally with Many VMs
In this second case the SMB, has the knowledge in house to manage their virtual environment and remain agile. However, their online presence is a few hundred thousand hits per day. Yet, their office is subject to power outages, their administrator on vacation, and all the other SMB woes. Usually catastrophic failures will wait until the administrator is on vacation and require the administrator to be available even in remote locations to help fix any issues.
Two Cases but Everything the Same
These are two cases, but with the same issue. Their service level agreements between administrators at hosting companies and locally and SMBs are subject to availability and responsiveness issues.
So why is this the case? Is the SMB thought of as less than the Enterprise or is it because the Enterprise has many more on staff people to stay on top of the entire local and remote environment.
Staffing is one Issue
I think it is because there are not enough knowledgeable virtual environment, cloud, and every day administrators within the SMB. I also believe that hosting companies and cloud providers should be offering increased benefits to the SMB. They need to provide the backfill that will allow the SMBs to maintain their agile online presence without a high cost. Since SMBs may not have people that can stay on top of their remote cloud and other environments. The cloud and hosting environments need to provide active monitoring either by people or automated for SMBs with an active response that does many of the IT processes automatically or even for them. They cannot just be informed, but need active response to fix problems as they happen. Cloud, virtual environment hosting, and regular hosting companies must be more responsive.
Yet, at the same time, the providers can only have active response for system failures, and hopefully for some application issues. They cannot have active responses for business issues. Agility depends on this, and therefore the SMB must be as on top of things as the providers are as best they can. The two groups must have synergy and work together proactively.