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Microsoft aims to serve up support for small businesses with a new training program.

This story appears in the August 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The Microsoft Partner Program has long been a haven for technology service and solution providers and resellers to get certified in specific disciplines and tap into Microsoft's far-reaching support network. An extension of the program, dubbed the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community, launched in early July with a focus on partner companies that serve the technology needs of small businesses. "It's a recognition of what we call the small-business technology revolution, and the increasing sophistication of the operating environment and the technology environment for small businesses," says Cindy Bates, general manager of Microsoft's U.S. Small Business Group.

To call themselves Microsoft Small Business Specialists, partners have to complete training and pass a proficiency test. "They'll be trained on understanding the unique needs of small businesses, as well as appropriate licensing options," says Bates. Microsoft defines a small business as one with 50 employees or fewer, so the training is specifically geared toward those companies, which typically don't have in-house IT staff. Areas of training include security, proficiency with products like Microsoft Small Business Server, and understanding the technology priorities of smaller companies.

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