Slow internet connections are one of the most irritating – and destructive – problems facing UK small businesses today. If the internet goes down altogether doing anything can be well-nigh impossible – not to mention the danger of missing clients, or potential clients, who are trying to get in touch.
In a recent survey by my company, the UK’s small business owners rated the importance of an internet connection above running water and electricity; the survey also found that only 56 per cent are satisfied with their internet speed, and just a quarter (24 per cent) of small businesses’ surveyed said they currently have a superfast fibre connection. Yet companies are often unwilling to upgrade, citing costs and inconvenience.
SME owners are aware of the internet’s importance, but many may not be aware of how a faster connection can dramatically improve your business’s functionality. If they were, more might push the government for better access. Any initial outlay ends up paying for itself in time saved, easily accessible data, and increased employee productivity.
It makes your technology more reliable. Big companies have excellent data systems, and the financial clout for services such as cloud storage and application management to be outsourced to specialists. Meanwhile, smaller companies go it alone, using services such as Dropbox which are reliant on an internet connection for their tech needs – back-up, sharing files, HR management. If the internet slows, these processes become less efficient, or data can be lost.
It keeps you in contact with your customers. Fast internet lets you keep in touch with customers consistently. If you’re readily available on social media or email, customers will value and trust your business. However if the internet goes down and you cannot communicate, this will reflect badly on you and your business’s professionalism.
It stops you losing time. The main cost of a poor internet connection is time. If you rely on the internet to manage your processes and for research, when the internet is lost everything else is too. Employees need to be sent home in order to work there, and tasks take far longer. Fast internet can keep wasted time to a minimum.
It improves the morale of your employees. Slow internet is also quite demoralising and frustrating; sitting at a computer waiting for it to connect to something is a stressful experience for your employees when there are deadlines to meet. It also makes it very easy to get distracted. Happier and less frustrated employees are more productive and cutting out the time they have to wait for something to load or send ensures that focus on tasks is improved.
It makes your tasks easier, regardless of your business. For businesses based outside an office, better internet connections can make the process of ordering supplies easier, it allows them to place and process customer orders on the move and take card payments out in the field. The internet also has a crucial role in marketing, and so a fast connection allows you to promote your business more effectively.
It’s clear that superfast broadband can improve the operation of a business; however, our survey revealed that 43% of small business owners questioned would not be likely to upgrade if it was available. That would be remiss of them, to say the least. There are obstacles in place which need to be overcome; it is expensive, the UK’s network infrastructure is behind schedule, and it won’t be available in some rural areas for a long time.
A change needs to take place if the UK’s small businesses are to keep up with the development of their larger counterparts, and as a valued part of our economy it is vital that their needs are addressed. Utility companies need to stress the specific business benefits of superfast broadband, and work on ways of making it accessible – and affordable – to small businesses. As the technology landscape becomes ever more complex, and businesses increasingly operate online, we should not lose sight of the small businesses that don’t necessarily have the resources or the experience to upgrade, but work on resolving this issue instead.