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UK plc loses £12.3bn to internet downtime over a year

Research from business ISP Beaming suggests internet connection failures hit two-thirds of British businesses last year, costing the economy £12.3bn

More than two-thirds of UK businesses experienced internet connection failures in the past year, costing the economy £12.3bn in lost productivity and extra overtime.

A study surveyed 500 businesses using a range of internet service providers (ISPs) and connection types to try to better understand how internet outages affected users.

About 3.9 million businesses in the UK – about 72% of the total – experienced some loss of connectivity during office hours in the 12 months to 31 March 2016.

Those companies experienced 149 million hours of downtime, with an average of 43 hours and £3.125 lost per business, which worked out at £521 per employee, found the study from analysts Opinium and commissioned by business ISP Beaming

“The internet is the greatest business resource ever invented – but our increasing reliance on connectivity creates new risks for those that need it the most,” said Beaming managing director, Sonia Blizzard.

“The pace of business is now such that any downtime means missed opportunities, lost productivity and a huge amount of stress as businesses race to get back on track.”

Small businesses depending on consumer connections – often because they are unable to afford expensive leased lines from the likes of BT – were the worst affected. They suffered double the downtime – 30 hours on averag – than those that used business services.

In spite of this, said Beaming, 51% of the smallest businesses, and up to 80% of sole traders, such as independent plumbers or electricians, relied on home broadband services to support their company.

Read more about internet outages

  • With BT yet again forced to apologise to consumer and business broadband customers after another technical fault, how can businesses reliant on one telco prepare themselves for the inevitable?
  • Businesses affected by 2015's Kingsway fire in central London implemented a temporary Wimax solution after disruption to their internet service.
  • A big cause of internet outages can be theft of valuable copper infrastructure. In 2013, customers of BT, TalkTalk and Sky suffered a three-day outage after equipment was stolen.

“It is only when businesses experience a problem that they find their large, consumer orientated broadband provider expects them to self-cure problems online or queue for hours on the phone to gain assistance,” said Blizzard.

Medium-sized companies and larger businesses were not, however, immune to problems arising from internet outages. Although those using dedicated business connections or leased lines lost the fewest productive hours, they tended to be more reliant on the internet, and to make more use cloud-hosted services, which meant that they lost a greater proportion of their revenues overall.

When it came to mitigating the effects of unscheduled downtime, respondents to the survey said they used a variety of coping methods.

At 38% of businesses, day-to-day work ground to a half, 25% said they tended to switch to non-internet related tasks, and 23% said they worked longer hours to make up for lost time. A mere 13% said they were able to manage outages by switching to redundant connections.

“Internet failures happen for all sorts of reasons, including equipment failures and malicious attacks. All businesses that use the internet should have a plan to ensure connectivity is restored quickly and that any disruption is minimised.The quality, reliability and consistency of service and the availability of technical support should be as important to business buyers as speed of service,” commented Blizzard.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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Seems like a loss of £12.3bn is enough to get some attention. But apparently not enough to warrant a fix. How much do users have to lose before we demand a more secure infrastructure? Everyone hates dealing with the infrastructure because it doesn't immediately boost the bottom line. But that's our lifeline and consumers of all stripes should be demanding far better service.
This should simply not be happening in today’s modern digital economy.

The reliance on public and private cloud services including the cost benefits of key applications such as VoIP, Video Conferencing, Unified Communications, Media Rich Telepresence, Wi-Fi Calling, VoLTE, etc. means that reliable, fast connectivity is now business critical. It’s unsurprising that businesses are still losing downtime when internet connections fail due to unplanned outages and denial of service (DoS) attacks, such as the TalkTalk attack that occurred in November 2015. This level of disruption can be extremely dangerous for many organisations, yet most are ignorant of this.

Partly due to ongoing investments by network operators, government policies, key stakeholders and private industries, 4G- LTE coverage is improving. According to industry experts, SpeedTest / Ookla, average speeds in the UK are increasing to 60 Mb/s with proven resilience and reliability. In addition, customer demand led by exponential usage of mobile devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and data hungry applications are also driving greater adoption of 4G services as a failover solution to a business grade digital network.

4G connectivity is now an essential solution for any business to operate and compete effectively in a modern digital economy. However, many organisations still consider 4G data purely as a back-up option. Given the speed, resilience and reliability of the 4G network infrastructure, now is the time for businesses to consider this as a primary, rather than secondary solution.

Situl Shah, Head of Business Development, Comms365