Small Business News Briefs

By Patricia Fusco
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Microsoft bCentral Offers Yellow Pages Listings for Small Businesses
Microsoft's small business resource center bCentral has expanded its offerings for small businesses through a new relationship with Verizon. The two million registered users of bCentral, as well as new customers, are eligible to sign up for premium listings on Verizon's SuperPages.com via bCentral's site. bCentral registered users have a choice of three listing levels:

  1. An Introductory Listing for $399 per year;

  2. A Standard Listing for $799 per year;

  3. Or a Professional Listing for $1,199 per year.

Each level offers preferred placement in SuperPages.com search results and allows small business to include a link to its Web site, along with a map and driving directions to its location. Businesses can customize the look of their listings, including font size, style and text color. Participants can choose up to five search categories where their business listing will appear, and the listing can be modified or updated at any time.

Verizon SuperPages.com receives as many as 14 million visits and 9 million unique visitors a month and powers directory services on MSN, InfoSpace, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, and HotBot, among others.

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Vulnerabilities of Broadband Drive Demand for Small Business Security
According to independent research from In-Stat/MDR, broadband security will see very high levels of adoption over the next few years as small business owners become more knowledgeable about security vulnerabilities.

As broadband business users become increasingly aware of the vulnerability of Internet services, providers will begin to offer an increasing amount of security systems to protect small business connections. Additionally, robust security features will be integrated into traditional networking equipment, and demand for broadband security hardware, software, and services will increase significantly.

Consequently, the broadband security market will grow from $74 million in 2000 to its peak at $829 million by the end of 2004. The high-tech market research firm reports that this growth will result in a 46 percent compound annual growth rate for the five-year period ending in 2006.

Jaclynn Bumback, In-Stat/MDR analyst, said the increasing popularity of broadband among small businesses is spurring demand for new hardware, software, and services to protect against the many security risks in the wild.

"While these security risks can take many forms, such as viruses, worms, hackers, or war drivers, security vendors are targeting the low-end business and consumer markets with easy to use software, and plug-and-play hardware to secure the most novice computer user," Bumback said.

In-Stat/MDR estimates that the need for perimeter protection and virus scanning will fuel the market, while early adopters begin pushing vendors to secure newer risks, such as wireless networks.

While virus protection made up the majority of the security market revenue in 2000 and 2001, the largest category under broadband security will be firewall through 2006. The high growth rates and larger overall sales will be driven, in large part, by the strong sales of hardware firewalls. Many of the hardware firewall products will be bought by small businesses for a reason other than security, such as sharing a broadband connection. The impressive demand for Network Address Translation (NAT) based routers by small businesses in 2000 and 2001 is a strong indicator of the growing demand for these types of products.

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SBA Warns of Potential Disruptions to Small Businesses

More than 100,000 reservists and National Guard members have already been called to active duty in the war against terrorism. Many small businesses are facing staffing disruptions and personnel changes as a result of the temporary loss of military workers.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has redesigned key areas of its Web site to provide tools and relevant information to small businesses that are affected by the call-up.

SBA Administrator Hector Barreto said a call to duty of a key employee can be disruptive for a small business that is not prepared.

"It is essential that we at the SBA provide small business owners and employees involved in defending our country with the information they need to prepare for time away from the workplace," Barreto said.

At the new reservists' Web site, a small business can find managerial, technical, and financial assistance as well as counseling and training, to help deal with the loss of an employee called up to active duty.

The SBA wants to remind affected businesses of the availability of its basic 7(a) loan guarantee, a loan program for businesses not able to obtain financing through conventional channels. In addition, affected businesses are reminded that they may qualify for disaster loans, debt repayment deferrals, and interest rate reductions.

Businesses interested in obtaining more information about the SBA programs can visit the SBA Reservists' site, the Office of Veterans Business Development site, or call the SBA answer desk at 1-800-U-ASK-SBA.
This article was originally published on February 04, 2003

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