The average British business is wasting hundreds of pounds a year as a result of using inflexible options for IT services such as Internet, email, and back-up, according to research commissioned by 1&1 Internet Ltd. The data from over 750 small and medium sized companies shows that most pay for IT services based on a rough and often outdated calculation of maximum requirements rather than factoring in actual usage including quieter periods. The average owner admits that seasonally quieter months should equate to at least a 12 per cent reduction in their spend, meaning a £432 saving for a firm with average costs. 1&1 advises businesses to be aware of scalable ‘cloud-based’ options for which costs are more aligned with business performance.
1&1’s ‘IT Purchasing Survey’ of 756 UK small and medium sized companies finds that many are not looking into their on-going IT service costs as rigorously as they should. The average firm spends £3597 per year on on-going IT services including Internet access, email, server costs, data transfer and electronic storage. The data shows that many do not have IT costs proportionate to their business performance. Over one third of companies (34 per cent) admit that they pay the same annual total regardless of whether the business is busy or not. Worryingly, this increases to 40 per cent for the smallest businesses with less than 10 employees. Only 11 per cent of firms were certain that their IT costs were sufficiently in line with fluctuations in business performance.
Given the facility to adjust IT service costs in line with their actual usage during quieter periods in the year, the average business owner estimates a 12 per cent saving should be possible, meaning an average saving of £432. For one in three businesses, the business owner has sole responsibility for researching and procuring IT services. The data reveals that only 17 per cent of companies have already looked into whether IT services, such as server capacity, could be reduced down for quieter periods to be in line with actual requirements. A further 28 per cent report that they would be keen to make their IT costs more in line with seasonal variations in usage.
Oliver Mauss, CEO 1&1 Internet Ltd., said “Every business has the challenge of ensuring that IT spend drives value back into the business. Even the smallest firms should explore technologies that scale and adapt to their business goals and performance. Hosted solutions such as Cloud servers are a good example of how firms can leverage full performance but only pay for the resources they need, when they really need them”.
New research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), an independent body that provides advice on applying Cloud-based services, finds that the UK market for Cloud services is growing rapidly. A study of 250 IT decision makers across all types of UK organisation, finds a 27 per cent rise in first time users over the past 18 months. Based on these results, CIF expects more than 75 per cent of UK businesses to be using at least one cloud service formally by the end of 2013. The body also expects 80 per cent of current Cloud users to have increased their Cloud spend in the same timeframe.
An example of a Cloud-based IT service that can flex to business requirements is the 1&1 Dynamic Cloud Server (DCS), from £29.99/month+VAT. Configurations for all essential features such as CPU or RAM can be scaled up or down and are charged on an hourly basis as needed. For small businesses, this means server costs can be managed far more closely and efficiently. For example, if a promotional campaign or one-time project attracts more website visitors than usual, the performance parameters can be increased by the user with the help of an intuitive slider. An upgrade or downgrade to a DCS can be applied in less than five minutes. 1&1 also provides mobile apps so a business owner can manage and monitor server resources at any time on-the-go.
Mauss added, “For a small business owner, Cloud server packages offer the possibility to not only reduce total costs but also manage their IT needs just as responsively and efficiently as much larger corporations”.
More and more businesses are adopting the policy that allows people to bring in their own laptops and tablets to work on – giving them access to emails, fileservers and databases.
Smoothwall said more than a fifth of UK firms, with an average annual IT spend of £50,000 to more than £100m, had already implemented BYOD policies – with the number due to grow rapidly because of users’ familiarity with their own tablets, smart phones and netbooks.
The policy is aimed at making people more productive, but Smoothwall’s experts warn it can put businesses at major risk from cyber-threats and possible legal action.
There are millions of devices out there containing spyware, adware, viruses, worms, Trojan horses, rootkits and other malicious software, according to Smoothwall.
Ian Parrett, Smoothwall director, said: “Obviously the owners of these devices have no idea this software is there and even if they have up to date antivirus and anti-malware software, it won’t protect against the very latest threats that came out that morning – often called ‘zero-day threats’.
“The main problem with BYOD is that mobile devices offer many of the same old fashioned threats that we’ve been fighting for years.
“Whilst it may be very difficult for network managers to keep infected devices off their network, they can make sure that malware can’t do any damage or infect other devices.
“This means having an adequate protection system in place that will effectively ring-fence infected devices.”
Research by Hiscox has found that one in 10 small businesses in the UK have experienced a data hack. The research also revealed that 90 per cent don’t have a cyber crime insurance policy in place to protect them against the financial, business interruption and legal costs they would incur should they be struck by cyber crime.
Hiscox found that while four in 10 (41 per cent) SME owners are concerned about their computer systems being hacked, only 25 per cent are very confident about the security measures their company has in place to protect against these risks. The research also shows that small business owners are more concerned about risks relating to cyber crime, such as being hacked (39 per cent) or phishing (36 per cent), than they are of physical items (laptops, customer paperwork) being stolen from the office (31 per cent).
Hiscox SME insurance expert, Alan Thomas, commented: “Cyber crime is costing the UK economy around £11 billion a year and while the media is reporting a growing number of high profile data breaches, some small businesses may also be a popular target for hackers because the systems are usually easier to get into and the breach may not be found out for a good few weeks.”
“We know that cyber crime insurance policies might be the last thing on an entrepreneurs’ mind when they are trying to drive their business forward on a day to day basis, but it is worrying that over one in 10 (13 per cent) of these businesses don’t know what security measures they have in place and if they are protected from online crime.
“It is increasingly important for small companies to evaluate all the risks their businesses face, both online and offline, and include their IT security and protection requirements in the overall contingency strategy.”
Hiscox offers the following security tips to help SMEs protect themselves against online risks:
- Running an enterprise is a full-time activity and if you do not have online technical expertise seeking professional advice on security can save you time and hassle in the long run by ensuring the security measures cover your business needs
- Protect information with an internal ‘need-to-know’ policy. If storing information on a central file server, manage who has access to these files. This can help prevent accidental or deliberate data loss
- Encrypt important information for extra security so that only authorised users will be able to access it
- Using the internet and email to conduct business means that data loss becomes a bigger risk. Develop a clear email policy and raise online security awareness with employees and follow up on suspicious emails even if they’re a one off
- Make it protocol across the business for employees to use numbers and letters in passwords that provide much more robust protection from online criminals.
- Back up your files and check your insurance cover so that you can get your business up and running again quickly in the event of an incident
- Items like laptops and computer monitors are common targets for thieves and the real cost of a stolen IT asset isn’t just the hardware; it’s the lost data and the lost productivity. Lock servers in a room and move laptops into a secure drawer at the end of a working day.
British internet users are still suffering as a result of numerous website gripes. In an era when consumers rely on around-the-clock e-commerce and e-banking, more Britons than ever are being frustrated by websites that are faulty or taken off-line during the night for maintenance to be performed.
38 per cent of consumers have decided to avoid a company in the future as a result of finding a faulty website, while some 44 per cent of Britons are more critical towards website errors today than they were five years ago.
Britain’s Top 5 ‘Common Website Faults’ as found by web users are:
1. Slow running websites (71 per cent)
2. Websites down for maintenance (49 per cent)
3. Web addresses that lead nowhere (44 per cent)
4. Online orders that freeze (44 per cent)
5. Broken website pages (42 per cent)
“Oliver Mauss, CEO 1&1 Internet, said: “Unreliable websites continue to reflect badly upon businesses of all types and sizes. It is clear that when faced with a faulty or off-line website, consumers will turn elsewhere. Perhaps more surprising is the proportion that will be unwilling to return. With this in mind, businesses must ensure their websites are well designed, have robust functionality, and benefit from the most reliable and high-speed web hosting infrastructure available to them”.
A research report commissioned by Dell and Intel reveals general trends and attitudes towards server virtualisation adoption in small businesses between different European countries with 41 percent of all the companies surveyed currently using the technology.
The findings reveal key differences in adoption and attitudes among European countries, and between companies with fewer than 25 employees and businesses with 25-100 employees. Overall businesses perceived the benefits of server virtualization as more significant than the obstacles.
Key findings from the survey report include:
- Server virtualisation adoption is not uniform between different sized companies and different countries.
- Server virtualisation adoption is highest (54 percent) among organizations with 25-100 employees, while only 15 percent of companies with fewer than 25 employees currently deploy it.
- The UK and Benelux region lead the way with server virtualisation adoption, with 41 and 43 percent of companies surveyed using the technology, while only 24 percent of Swiss companies use server virtualisation, well below the European average.
“While there is a noticeable difference between the adoption rates as companies increase in size, the results indicate that businesses of both size groups perceived the benefits of server virtualisation as more significant than the obstacles,” said Aongus Hegarty, president EMEA, Dell. “As businesses become increasingly reliant on technology, and become more educated in the innovations and benefits of server virtualisation, we are sure to witness an increase in its deployment, enabling businesses to enhance their infrastructures and maximise efficiency.”