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Enterprise vs. SMB: The Pros and Cons of Each Environment and Where You Fit On the Spectrum

All professionals who have had experience in both large corporate business structures and smaller start-up style companies can speak to the differences of each setting, and folks who work in IT know them all too well. When comparing large enterprises to SMB’s (small to medium businesses), there are fundamental IT infrastructure characteristics which remain ingrained in each from a technical, operational, and cultural point of view. The pros and cons of each environment are linked to the technological needs of your business, and these differences are vital to know when asking yourself where you fit in on the spectrum. Whether you are a IT/tech professional who needs to know how satisfy customer requirements from both large enterprise firms and SMB’s or if you are a sysadmin making a career adjustment from one to the other, here is a guide that highlights the essential disparities between the two. 


The Advantages of Working with An Enterprise: While start-ups continue to be the rage across the country, longstanding and well-established large enterprises that have sustained decades of growth have done so for a reason. The wallet size of properly managed enterprises is an inherent advantage when it is time to allocate resources for new tools and resources. Immense budgets enable enterprises to decentralize and remove single points of failures when there is a dire need to do so.

Having the funds to upgrade multiple servers is not an issue when working for a large enterprise business, and larger firms can determine ‘best-of-breed’ functions required for specific applications that can meet a broader set of requirements. Since working in a large enterprise business model is so comprehensive, there are likely to be multiple IT professionals in the department who have specialized roles, and this can be advantageous to sysadmins who want to stick to their core responsibilities. 

The Disadvantages of Working with An Enterprise: The flipside of working in a large enterprise is that there is a long chain of command which sometimes stifles the effort of implementing product or system enhancements. Armies of middle managers tend to cluster the workflow process to the point of compounding whatever issue that is need of being resolved. Convincing upper management to change their policies, which are often ritualistic in nature, can be a struggle in large enterprises, especially when there is such a focus on legal/regulatory/security practices. 

Enterprises can spend months getting a BI system designed and implemented, whereas SMB’s are able to be up and running in a matter of weeks. Massive data repositories and custom-designs due to numerous in-house systems negatively impact enterprises in regards to scalability, and ultimately, many sysadmins find it difficult to accomplish their high priority tasks with so many supervisors giving them convoluted directions. 

What Can You Do About It: The best way to work around the disadvantages of the enterprise structure is to create a team-friendly, start-up style environment where there is a focus on collaboration rather than one-upping your peers. If you have worked in a SMB before (perhaps one that has gotten acquired by a larger company) and now have a leadership type role at an enterprise, implement the lessons you have learned which contributed to its growth. 


What Works: The main reason that SMB’s are thriving in Silicon Valley and beyond is a rather simple one (small businesses have generated more than 65% of the new jobs created in the U.S. since 1996); the ease of getting things done. With a less stringent business structure, sysadmins at smaller companies enjoy freedoms that allow them to solve IT issues with relative ease. Whether you need to install VM or upload new software on multiple devices, these are the sort of tasks that take a day or two at SMB’s as opposed to multiple weeks at enterprises. Without the endless approval chains which are prevalent at large companies, SMB’s tend to see increased levels of efficiency and productivity (which is also thanks to implementing cloud technologies as highlighted in this SMB ‘Wheels Of Technology’ Infographic), especially since they implement all-in-one packaged business intelligence systems. As opposed to the age of when highly technical people were the gatekeepers of new innovative tools, the current era of technology enablement allows more people (and more SMB’s) to be better equipped.  Shared dashboards, uncluttered communication tools (such as Slack, Twilio, and HipChat), and ease of integration are just a few advantages that IT professionals enjoy at small businesses, and as technology continues to evolve over the next several years, the capability gap between SMB’s and large enterprises will continue to shrink. 

What Doesn’t Work: The category where most SMB’s continue to stagger behind large enterprises is a lack of designated resources. If a new business is merely a few years in existence, it is fairly common to see certain internal products such switches and wires become a hassle to deal with. The issue of funding often comes down to whether the clients of a SMB are paying the bills on time, and for this reason there is less of an overall safety blanket when compared to the more well-established corporate backbone. And since IT team members often take on multiple responsibilities such as backups, databases, networks, new technology purchases, etc., it is more likely an SMB will forgo outlined process management and outsource certain tasks to a third party, especially if it involves a specialized subject that is coming at the request of a client. Due to this ‘wing it’ philosophy, some SMB’s remain as wildcards when it comes to maintaining an optimal IT environment. 

What Can You Do About It: If you work at a SMB and are struggling to gain any traction within a crowded marketplace, take a step back and re-evaluate your product. As long as you are providing a unique customer experience for your buyer personas, there is most likely a group out there that is willing to invest in the service and your vision. But before your team goes on a chase for funding, it is of the utmost importance to have an all-encompassing business plan. Take notes from the successful enterprises that started off as a SMB and from there you can put your best foot forward in implementing well-thought out processes. 

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by Opsview Team,
Opsview is passionately focused on monitoring that enables DevOps teams to deliver smarter business services, faster.

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