The demands on SMB networks have never been greater. The explosion in mobility demand and cloud computing is impacting enterprises of all sizes, including SMB’s. And these changes are necessitating that SMBs refresh their network infrastructure for digital transformation (DX). While SMBs have employed wired and wireless connectivity for some time, many are using network infrastructure that was designed for a simpler time- when wireless connectivity was nice to have, but not necessarily mission-critical.

In the digital era, SMBs have the same business objectives to meet through the network as any other business- reduce costs, maximize productivity, bring products and services to market faster, and ultimately- satisfy customers and cultivate repeat engagement. This is understandably sparking interest in new network infrastructure investments (such as WiFi) across industries and geographies. However, SMBs still may face unique challenges when it comes to enacting network-enabled DX- not least of which is devoting staff time to new network initiatives. As a result, SMBs frequently make trade-offs between richness of functionality against their available resources.

But it doesn’t have to be this way- SMBs have unprecedented choice in choosing networking infrastructure that supports DX efforts. Of course, having a lot of choices is a mixed blessing; it’s easy to become overwhelmed with your options. IDC believes that there are several factors- applicable across all SMB environments- that when considered, provide a true north to making wise investment decisions.  These factors include: integrated security, mobility, cloud applications, IoT, data explosion, and automation.

IDC advises to make network security a primary consideration- data is the lifeblood of DX, and its explosion, along with the growth of IoT devices, and public cloud SaaS applications accessed through the internet, have created more entry points for network attacks. SMBs must look for next-generation security (protection, detection, and remediation) that is integrated with the network infrastructure at its foundation (and evolves in lock-step) and allows for granular policy-setting and visibility.

IDC continues to see the growth of workforce mobility and SaaS application usage throughout SMBs. Not only do SMBs need to think about this from a security perspective, but also need to consider what this means for the performance of mobile devices on the network, as well as prioritization and Quality of Service for mission critical applications. For example, will a guest accessing social media over WiFi slow down CRM performance? Will running other network applications cause my web conferencing platform to be jittery?

In addition to these pressing concerns, SMBs should architect their networks with the future in mind. Look to vendors that have been proven innovators in the space. Think about how applications such as network analytics will continue to evolve. Consider the value of emerging technologies such as network automation. IDC sees great potential in automation for the SMB- primarily, the reduction in time spent on manual processes, so that SMB network managers can focus on using IT to enact innovation- or simply go back to their official jobs.

Ultimately, DX is opening up a plethora of opportunities for the SMB. SMBs that look to compete only in the physical realm will struggle to stay relevant. A network built for DX should allow SMBs to compete more effectively in both the physical and digital realms- and better engage with customers through mobile apps, location-based services and other engagement technologies. To be DX-ready, I recommend that any SMB evaluating a network infrastructure upgrade considers solutions that align with business objectives while addressing evolving security, mobile, cloud, IoT, and data requirements.

Learn more in this IDC Analyst Connection, Digital Trends Raise the Bar for SMB Networking.


Nolan Greene

Senior Research Analyst, Network Infrastructure

International Data Corporation