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August 3, 2015

SMEs double down on mobility & cloud

Market has been underserved in terms of connectivity.

By Alexander Sword

Take-up of cloud computing by UK SMEs has increased 15 percent in the last year.

Cloud-based applications are used by 69 percent of SMEs, with 53 percent believing that they are important to remote working.

In addition, 91 percent of respondents to the BT and British Chambers of Commerce survey have at least one member of staff working from home and 19 percent have more than half of their workforce working away from the main office location.

Remote access to company data, wi-fi access when out of the office and fibre-optic broadband were also seen as critical by 56 percent, 64 percent and 33 percent of respondents respectively.

Smartphones were considered the most transforming technology, with 68 percent believing that they had made the biggest difference to businesses in the last 12 months. 54 percent cited improved wi-fi access and 42 percent cloud-based applications.

79 percent claimed that the internet had increased their speed of communication, 64 percent argued it had improved customer service and 63 percent claimed that enabling flexible working.

Danny Longbottom, managing director, UK SME, BT Business, said: "Technology is at the heart of a lot of the dramatic changes we’re seeing within the UK SME market – whether that’s offering the realistic possibility of working from home, increasing the effectiveness of people when they’re out of the office or opening up new markets, both in the UK and internationally."

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According to a survey by Kronos, 64 percent of workers believe that cloud applications are important in supporting their day-to-day work, while 83 percent prefer cloud applications to those deployed on-premise.

On average, workers use six different cloud applications per month. In addition, 79 percent expect the number of people using cloud applications for work to increase over the next two years.

Longbottom added: "Central to those changes is connectivity, which is why we’re investing heavily to provide access to the fastest connections possible for businesses across the UK."

BT is not the only company ‘investing heavily’ in business communications. Virgin Media recently highlighted the importance of digital technologies to enabling SMEs’ operations, with one of their new sustainability goals aiming to enable 100,000 small businesses to participate in the economy.

"We believe that digital technology can give the UK economy a boost by helping every business grow," Virgin Media stated.

"The digital economy is worth £82bn to the UK but we know that thousands of small businesses aren’t getting all the benefits of digital technology.

"By providing superfast broadband access, inspiration, skills and advice we can help small businesses to thrive and grow. In return these businesses will create jobs, contribute to their communities and help drive a digital competitive advantage for the UK as a whole."

According to Kester Mann, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight, the market is in danger of being uncompetitive.

"There’s a concern for Ofcom about competition in the sector. BT dominates quite considerably."

According to Ofcom’s figures, BT holds a 49 percent market share, while Virgin Media trails with 9 percent, Daisy at 7 percent and TalkTalk at 6 percent.

"Our assessment of market outcomes for SMEs has also shown that the market is currently under-delivering superfast broadband connectivity to SMEs (with coverage at 56% in June 2014)," says the Ofcom report.

The report adds: "Without targeted action, this under-delivery is set to continue: our analysis of future deployment plans finds that around 18 percent of SME premises will not have access to superfast broadband by 2017."

"They do also acknowledge the launch of some new services to this sector," Mann adds, "but it’s a market that could be more competitive."

Arguably, SMEs’ adoption of services can be held back by a lack of expertise compared to enterprises, Mann argues.

"Possibly they don’t have the time or resources to compare offers because they’re smaller," says Mann.

Mike van Bunnens, Managing Director at Comms365, adds that SMEs could open themselves up to pitfalls such as outages without the necessary knowledge.

"A lot of SMEs don’t necessarily have people working in IT departments that come from an enterprise perspective. They should definitely start to look at how disaster recovery (DR) plans are thought out.

"Most enterprises have a DR plan. The more cloud services they adopt the more protocol they need. SMEs don’t necessarily have that knowledge."

BT’s study surveyed 319 decision-makers in UK SMEs.

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