UK small businesses at risk of getting stuck in technology dark ages


  • New technology adoption and regulatory compliance take back seat as SMEs tighten purse strings.
  • Fax machines used more than smartphones by SMEs.
  • Half of IT users and a quarter of IT decision makers don’t know what cloud computing is.

November 2, 2011 – Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK are slow to adopt new technologies such as tablets and cloud computing because of a lack of financial and human resources. According to the Intel Business Index – an independent study[i] of 3,000 IT decision makers and IT users in companies with fewer than 250 employees – SMEs are also putting themselves at risk of data breaches because of a lack of awareness around security regulations and investment in security technologies.

Technology Adoption Hindered by Lack of Resources

According to the Intel Small Business Index, insufficient financial and human resources prevents almost half (46.3%) of IT decision makers from adopting new technologies. Over a third (36.4%) of SMEs don’t plan to buy any new laptops, desktop PCs, tablets or smartphones in the next 12 months. Furthermore, 78.5% say that the lack of government funding prevents them from training staff in new technologies

The study also reveals that while the adoption of new technologies such as tablets for work purposes is on the rise, with 17.4% of IT decision makers planning to buy/lease an iPad or another tablet for use for work purposes in the next year, legacy technologies still play an important role for many companies. A fax machine is used daily by 37.7% of IT decision makers and 40.5% of IT users.

Graham Palmer, managing director of Intel UK, says: “It’s clear that as SMEs tighten their purse strings, buying new technologies falls to the bottom of the list of priorities. Yet, it’s important that IT decision makers weigh the advantages, such as the increased efficiency and flexibility delivered by mobile devices, against the cost. In many sectors, such as the creative industries and retail, using outdated legacy technologies could even result in the loss of your competitive advantage.”

The index shows that despite the perceived popularity of tablets, they are currently used for work purposes by just 1.4% of IT users. In contrast, a laptop is used by 36.4%, and a smartphone by 16.2% of IT users.


Security Not Top a Top Priority                      

The Intel Small Business Index reveals that around one in ten (9.4%) of IT decision makers have been the victim of an IT incident in the last 12 months which resulted in business downtime. Despite this and many recent, widely publicised security breaches by enterprises, most SMEs (63.6%) spend less than 10% of their IT budget on protecting their business against security breaches. Only 6.8% of SMEs use between 21 and 40% of their IT budget on security.

IT Security Jeopardised by ‘Bring Your Own Device’ Trend

Out of all respondents, almost half (42.3%) use a personal mobile or smartphone for work purposes and 38.7% use a personal laptop. Despite the growing popularity of this ‘Bring Your Own Device’ trend, over a third (36.5%) of IT decision makers are unaware of legislation relating to security and privacy on mobile devices. Over one in ten (11.2%) of IT decision makers admit that while they are aware of the legislation, they don’t have the resources to ensure their business complies. Only just over half (52.2%) of IT decision makers ensure that their business complies with these regulations.Ease-of-use is a key driver of the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ trend, whereby 71.2% of respondents say this is the main reason why they use their own device for work purposes. Access to work and personal content on the same platform is a key factor for half (50.9%) of all respondents. The low cost of using the same device for personal and business use was a factor for over a third (33.2%) of all respondents.Out of those who use their own laptop for work, 69% say that the attractive design of the device is the main reason they use it, but 67.2% also value the increased privacy of using their own laptop, i.e. their colleagues or boss not having visibility over data on the laptop.Graham Palmer says: “It’s likely that the so-called consumerisation of IT is going to continue, and IT decision makers need to recognise that this, and the increasingly mobile workforce, will have huge data security implications. SMEs should educate staff on the need to keep an eye on their laptops, mobiles, and crucially, ensure that any sensitive data on devices is protected. The loss of intellectual property and not complying with data privacy regulations could hit SMEs hard from a financial point of view.”

Confusion around Cloud Computing

Despite the hype around cloud computing, only 13.8% of IT decision makers say they have adopted cloud services. Moreover, nearly half (48.7%) of IT users and a quarter (23.3%) of IT decision makers aren’t even sure what cloud computing is. This is demonstrated by the contradiction between those who say they don’t use cloud computing but who actually use a cloud application. For example, over half (57.2%) of Amazon/Ebay users and nearly half (48.50%) of Google Docs users claim that they do not use cloud computing.Graham Palmer says: “The index highlights that cloud awareness and adoption is lagging behind the hype. It’s important that cloud technology companies educate SMEs about the implications of these technologies, including secure access to the cloud and the physical location of the data, because regulatory compliance may dictate how the cloud can be used. Cloud computing can be a very cost-effective option for many SMEs, but nobody should take the plunge without considering the impact on their business.”

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[i] Study conducted by Lightspeed Research

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