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Information technology (IT) requirements for home offices are quite different from those of larger corporations, according to a new study by Key3Media Group, an IT trade-show and conference company.

Responses from a panel of employees at companies with fewer than 100 staffers -- many of whom have IT purchasing responsibilities -- indicate that large and small businesses have very different needs in regard to IT investment priorities, IT budgets, and where they tend to make their IT purchases.

The COMDEX Small Business Survey found that:

-- Home-office workers tend to work for smaller, newer businesses. The average number of employees for home-office respondents was six, and their businesses had been in business for an average of seven years.

-- The average number of employees at commercial offices was 27. The outfits had been in business for an average of 13 years.

-- 28% of home-office respondents say that their business is primarily online.

-- 51% of home offices plan to remain small, while 69% of commercial offices have aim for moderate growth.

-- The average annual budget at home offices for IT products is $622,329. Commercial offices spend, on average, $1.3 million on IT products.

-- Both home and commercial offices listed a variety of tech services or products as important, but the leaders for home businesses were computer systems. Leaders for commercial offices were Internet/intranet Web products and services.

-- Both home offices and commercial offices named high cost as their biggest roadblock to implementing new technologies.

-- Home-office workers say other roadblocks are a lack of time, a lack of understanding of how to apply technology to their business, and the need to justify the expense with a clear return on investment.

-- Commercial offices also said a lack of qualified employees with professional IT skills is a big roadblock to implementing technologies.

-- Home-office businesses are more likely to purchase IT products from retailers (49%), while commercial-office workers favor buying from resellers (46%).

"When considering IT purchases, small businesses are concerned with how technology will keep them competitive and cut overall expenses, and how well it will be serviced and supported by vendors," says Doug Gold, vice-president in charge of content development and educational programs at COMDEX. "It's important for IT vendors to realize that small businesses need reliable products and long-term vendor support."

As the study reveals, however, not all small businesses are alike -- except perhaps in their aversion to high prices. By Robin J. Phillips in New York

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