smb-tech-trendsWhen it comes to IT challenges, cyber-security ranks among the top concerns of small business owners. According to the “2013 Small Business Technology Survey” issued last month by the  National Small Business Administration (NSBA), 94 percent of the 845 survey respondents said they are very or somewhat concerned about cyber-crime. The response is not surprising considering 44 percent reported they had been the victim of a cyber-security attack, with 59 percent experiencing a service interruption because of it; 35 percent had information falsely sent from their domain or email address; and another 19 had their website taken down. On the average, cyber-crimes cost small business owners $8,699 per attack.

While cyber-security may be a leading IT challenge, it’s not the only one facing small business owners.  Respondents also cited the cost of IT upgrades at 44 percent, the time it takes to fix problems at 41 percent, and the cost of maintaining technology at 36 percent.

Embracing new technologies aids flexible working

Despite IT challenges, half of the survey respondents indicated their small business had become more dependent on the use of technology over the past 12 months. Furthermore, the use of mobile devices by small business has increased significantly in the three years since the NSBA conducted its last tech survey. Among those surveyed, 74 percent use a smartphone, up from 57 percent in 2010; and laptop use stands at 84 percent compared to 67 percent in 2010.  Tablet use is at 41 percent. (No tablet figures were available from three years ago.)

cloud computing with laptop and smartphoneThe survey also showed a huge jump in the use of cloud computing over the past three years. In 2010, just five percent of small business owners reported they were ‘on the cloud.’  Today that figure has increased to 43 percent. The use of web and video conferencing for meetings also rose in three years from 18 to 45 percent as did the use of Voice over IP (VoIP) from 28 to 59 percent for calling or teleconferencing.

The ability to access company information and stay connected to the office via mobile devices and conferencing makes it easier for small business owners to allow their employees flexible working and many do. The NSBA survey indicated the majority — 60 percent — of small business owners offer their employees flexible working arrangements compared to 44 percent in 2010.

Being online matters

Maintaining an online presence is important to small business owners – 82 percent have a traditional website and nearly one in five (18 percent) have a mobile website. Among those who do not have a website, one third say they are in the process of developing one.

When it comes to social media, business networking is the primary reason at 85 percent small business owners engage. LinkedIn at 57 percent and Facebook at 50 percent are the most widely used social networks among recipients, of which 27 percent indicated they do not use social media.

How does your small business compare to these findings?