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Verizon tries “virtual CIO” strategy for SMBs

Enhanced portal offers variety of value-added services on a subscription basis

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In the increasingly competitive world of small business telecom, Verizon Business (NYSE:VZ) is trying to offer specialized solutions on a mass-market basis through a small business portal that offers everything from email to collaboration services, on a subscription basis.

The Verizon Small Business Center combines applications, hosted services and professional networking in a portal that small business customers can access and use as their own intranet, said Monte Beck, Verizon's vice president of small-business products and services.

“They can go to the Small Business Center to utilized services, whether it’s file-sharing or Verizon.net email and calendaring,” Beck said. “It’s a daily destination that they can use as their own Intranet site, for their employee base and for their suppliers and vendors and partners. Within that portal, there is also file-sharing, online backup and collaboration opportunities, so they can be working with partners or suppliers, using embedded calendaring to set up meetings and share files, then work on those files together online.”

Verizon’s goal is to serve as a “virtual CIO” for businesses that are too small to have a dedicated staff, Beck said. The value-added offerings are delivered on a subscription basis at what Beck calls “competitive prices.”

Cable companies, in particular, are being more aggressive in targeting small businesses, but Beck insists Verizon is not seeing a major customer loss to cable, at least not yet. In fact, Beck said, Verizon Business is now selling more TV service to small businesses, both over its FiOS fiber-to-the-premises network and via its partnership with DirecTV.

“Businesses now are needing more information at their fingertips,” Beck said. “We are seeing a deepening penetration of TV via FiOS TV to the business space in addition to voice and broadband. We also offer DirecTV where we don’t have FiOS. In terms of information requirements, there is much more of a TV penetration today than a few years ago.”

Value-added services such as security are also of growing interest in the SMB space, Beck said, and the challenge there is to offer something that isn’t just “enterprise lite” but specifically purposed for smaller businesses.

“We have spent a lot of time focusing on providing VA services and applications to our customers,” Beck said. “Whether that is security or online backup, encrypted documents – we are focused on providing value- added services to our customers that can relieve them of having to worry about backups or security. It’s part of being the virtual CIO.”

Bandwidth requirements are growing for the full range of small business customers, but Beck said managed services, such as managed security, tend to be more popular with the larger SMBs.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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