Small firms miss out on full potential of IT

Small business owners are still missing out on the full potential of IT, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the British Chambers of Commerce and Microsoft.

Small business owners are still missing out on the full potential of IT, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the British Chambers of Commerce and Microsoft.

The survey, involving 785 managers or directors at firms employing between two and 50 staff, found that time-constrained owners and senior managers are having to spend too much time on tasks that are not considered a priority.

Instead of devoting time to client management and customer service, they are getting bogged down by looking for files and records, dealing with government red tape and fixing IT problems associated with IT security and data storage. 

Loss of data is considered to be one of the key reasons for business inefficiency, yet half of small businesses surveyed are not backing up their data on a daily basis. 

And IT security failures are costing two-thirds of the businesses an estimated £1,259 per annum.

Yet two-fifths of respondents have not even installed a basic firewall onto PCs and over half don’t automatically patch or update all the PCs in the business.

The estimated cost of outsourcing the production of marketing materials is significant, at just over £6,000 a year. Yet small businesses are not fully harnessing their PCs to develop marketing materials themselves, which can easily be done through programmes installed on their PCs.

While 82% of businesses surveyed have a web presence, less than a third of them are using it to trade.

The survey also found a fifth of  businesses are not using their PCs to maintain client and supplier databases.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said, “Too much time is still being taken up fixing problems that could have been avoided. This is time they can ill afford to waste because it takes them away from those activities that really impact their success, like dealing with customers. 

“Regularly performing some simple tasks like data back-up or scanning for viruses can make all the difference and now this couldn’t be easier to do,” said Frost.

The survey was published at today’s UK launch of Windows Vista at the British Library. Microsoft says the new OS will help small firms to get more out of their IT systems.

Related story: Vista migration made easier with desktop tool

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