By Ben Simmons

A research study commissioned by Dell and Intel indicates small businesses with 100 or fewer employees are heavily dependent on IT but their lack of awareness of the benefits of cloud computing are hindering adoption of the much hyped technology.

According to the study on the server and storage needs of European companies, more than a third (35%) of small businesses said they had little or no knowledge of how a cloud-based infrastructure would benefit their company and 28% said they had no intention of moving their infrastructure to the cloud for the foreseeable future.

The full report is available at Dell’s Small Business Centre.

Privacy and security concerns slowing down the adoption of cloud computing
The findings showed more than nine out of ten (93%) small businesses have experienced an outage which affected their ability to do business and around one in six (17%) say this happens at least once a week. Though small businesses are experiencing surprisingly frequent IT outages, knowledge of cloud computing’s ability to ensure business continuity and fewer disruptions is low amongst those surveyed.

Among European small businesses only 2% of companies have moved all of their applications to a cloud-based infrastructure while 85% have concerns about doing so. Security (28%) and privacy (20%) were the most commonly reported primary concerns although performance (14%) and availability (12%) were also frequently cited.

Cloud computing is seen by many influencers and experts in the IT industry as a very relevant and attractive option for small businesses because it allows them to move to a pay as you go model and eradicates some of the upfront capital expenditure or business risk inherent in a traditional IT infrastructure. However, more than a third of companies (35%) said they had little or no knowledge of cloud computing and there is a clear correlation between lack of knowledge and low adoption rates. The UK is the most progressive European country when it comes to this technology with 25% of small businesses adopting this relatively new technology compared to only 2% in Switzerland and 12% in France.

Servers are perceived as most vital to an IT infrastructure but not all small businesses in Europe have one
Servers remain a critical component within the IT infrastructure of small businesses with 85% of small businesses using one or more servers. It is worth noting that 15% of companies still don’t have a server and as expected the majority of these are businesses with 24 or fewer employees where 34% don’t have a server compared with only 4% of businesses with 25 or more people.

Of the businesses with servers, 80% of companies with 25-100 employees have a separate server room, compared to only 23% of businesses with 1-24 employees. Overall, 63% of European businesses have experienced servers over-heating in the past and one in ten (10%) say this happens regularly or often.

Small businesses primarily rely on their servers to ensure accurate data records are kept and information is easily at hand with them used primarily for system-wide back-ups (75%); central file repository and sharing documents (67%); print and mail serving (62%); and hosting databases (59%).

Data Storage Is Underutilized
Information is the lifeblood of a growing business and it clear the amount of data handled by small business is growing in leaps and bounds. The majority of small businesses in Europe (63%) store more than one terabyte of data and more than a third (35%) store more than two terabytes. Swiss small businesses are managing more data than companies in the rest of Europe with 76% storing more than one terabyte and almost half (49%) of Swiss small businesses storing more than two. This is much higher than companies storing two terabytes in the UK (37%), France and Benelux (both 34%) and Germany (31%).

However, these same companies are only using only a fraction of their storage capacity with around one in six small businesses (17%) using less than a quarter of their storage capacity and when broken out by company size close to a third (30%) of companies with 24 or fewer employees use only 25% of capacity.

Average Small Business IT spend in Europe is €35,000
The majority of small businesses in Europe (54%) spend more than €10,000 on IT and the average spend is around €35,000. However there is still a significant number (29%) who spend less than €5,000. For most small businesses (58%) the final IT buying decisions are made by the Owner or Managing Director. The IT Manager (42%) and Finance Manager (10%) have a greater say in companies with 25 to 100 employees compared with very small businesses where the Owner or Managing Director makes the decision in 85% of companies leaving the IT Manager the authority in only 12% of businesses.

The key findings summarise the views of 1,150 IT decision makers from companies with 100 or fewer employees in Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK. The research study was undertaken by independent researcher, Vanson Bourne.

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