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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.
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“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.