IBM aims a host of products right at you.
I f there's any company innately associated with big business, surely it's IBM. But now Big Blue is making a big effort to reach the vast small-business market. Building on its legacy as the leading supplier of computers for small companies, IBM is spending $100 million on marketing its new Web-based services designed to help those firms make the most of e-commerce.
These services are all part of the IBM Small Business Program, available via the company's Web site (http://www.ibm.com/smallbusiness). Some are supplied by IBM itself, others by a growing list of partners. Use the company's Home Page Creator service, and within days you can be processing credit-card orders on a new, customized Web site that costs between $24.95 and $200 per month. And say you want to know how the security of your firm's site stacks up against others'. As part of the service, IBM can send a team of "ethical" computer hackers to test your site's security provisions. Pass and you'll be entitled to IBM's seal of approval, which could make visitors feel more confident in ordering from you online. There's also help available for preparing and distributing your press releases.
Some of the services are purely technical. IBM offers a data-vaulting service for PC-based firms. For just $9.95 a month, you can store the entire contents of your desktop or laptop PC's hard drive on remote IBM-run computers. Then, if trouble strikes--a laptop gets stolen, for instance--all your data is available via the Web.