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Software and PCs will lead the way in record-breaking year for U.S. small and midsize business IT spending

Spending on information technology by the 8 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the United States will account for approximately one-quarter of overall global SMB IT spending and more than 10% of all IT spending worldwide in 2012. Although U.S. SMB IT spending has more than made up the ground lost during the especially weak years of 2008 and 2009 – and is expected to exceed $138 billion in 2012 — future levels of investment and spending growth will not be uniform across technology categories.

A new study from International Data Corporation (IDC) explores the size and growth of the five major technology sectors in the small (<100 employees) and midsize (100-999) segments – and the critical differences in IT investment between SMBs and large businesses (1000+).

Key findings of this study include the following:

The small business segment will spend nearly twice as much as the midsize segment – and more than the entire large enterprise segment – on PCs and peripherals in 2012. The client business is expected to be particularly strong, as small and midsize businesses look to invest in a variety of PC form factors, with particularly high levels of interest in notebooks and media tablets.

Small and midsize businesses will spend nearly $50 billion on packaged software in 2012, accounting for more than one-third of total U.S. SMB IT spending; this category will also have the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) throughout the forecast period (6.0%).

More than one-quarter of total SMB IT spending in 2012 will be allocated to IT services, totaling more than $38 billion. While this level of spending is significant, it also represents a critical departure from the conventions of the large enterprise segment, where IT services account for nearly half of all IT spending. In keeping with the growing importance of IT services as company size increases, the midsize business market for IT services will be more than triple the size of that for small firms throughout the forecast period.

Systems and storage will continue to be the slowest-growing IT category in the SMB space. While small and midsize business interest in servers and storage is expected to remain strong, the appeal of virtualization is expected to slow the growth of the server installed base, particularly in the midsize segment.

The networking equipment category will account for the smallest share of total SMB IT spending throughout the forecast period. This represents another key difference between the SMB and enterprise segments — while large businesses continue to make significant investments in next-generation datacenters and networking infrastructure, more than one-third of SMBs have not yet deployed networks. Despite increasing interest in networking and network-enabled technologies such as software as a service, cloud resources, and unified communications, SMB spending will remain relatively modest throughout the forecast period.

“SMBs will account for an increasing share of overall corporate IT spending in the U.S.,” said Justin Jaffe, research manager for Small/Medium-Sized Business and Home Business Research at IDC. “Vendors that are sensitive to the changing dynamics in SMB technology requirements as well as the critical differences in the ways SMBs and large enterprises approach IT investment will be best positioned for success in 2012 and beyond.”

In U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Business 2012–2016 Forecast: Sizing the SMB Markets for PCs and Peripherals, Systems and Storage, Networking Equipment, Packaged Software, and IT Services, IDC forecasts IT spending by small and medium-sized businesses in the United States. Total IT spending is presented for 2012–2016, with the baseline year of 2011, and subtotals are provided for small businesses (<100 employees), lower midsize companies (100–499 employees), and upper midsize companies (500–999 employees).

Details on spending totals are provided for key hardware, software, and services technology areas: PCs and peripherals, systems and storage, networking equipment, packaged software, and IT services. The study also forecasts the total number of small and midsize businesses, with detail for each of IDC’s eight SMB company size sub-segments.

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