By Max Clarke

A staggering 70 per cent of SMEs across the UK are still relying on ‘domestic’ rather than ‘business grade’ broadband connections - and are counting the financial costs as a result.

The findings are from research conducted by leading telecoms provider, TalkTalk Business, to establish how much the widespread use of domestic broadband connections by SMEs is lowering their productivity and business efficiency and impacting on the wider UK economy.

Switching to a business grade broadband connection could collectively save UK SMEs up to £357 million in wasted labour costs and up to 32.4 million hours of staff downtime a month.

Despite the Government recently pledging £830m to support the private sector by giving every community super-fast broadband by 2015, 51 per cent of SMEs still don’t understand the difference between business and domestic grade broadband.

Andy Lockwood, transformation director at TalkTalk Business, explains: “From emailing customers, clients and suppliers to running a successful e-commerce operation — broadband connectivity is the lifeblood of any SME and impacts on virtually all aspects of its business performance.

“While being perfectly suited for all your online needs at home, domestic grade broadband is not designed to cope with the demands of running a business.”

When compared to a domestic connection, business grade broadband offers several benefits ranging from increased bandwidth and download speeds to enhanced security and advanced features such as remote working, cloud computing and real-time video-conferencing. Providers of business grade broadband, such as TalkTalk Business, can also offer UK-based technical support which is more responsive to business customer needs.

Those SMEs which use domestic broadband claimed that they experience reduced productivity, with 10 per cent losing up to five hours staff downtime a week from slow internet connectivity and 18 per cent losing 2.5 hours.

An unwillingness to switch to business grade broadband is revealed by 44 per cent of SMEs who said their domestic broadband package is too slow for their everyday business needs. Of those, six per cent experience technical faults whilst 24 per cent said their domestic broadband connection speeds vary greatly and are therefore unreliable for business use.

Andy added: “It’s vital, particularly in the current climate, that our research can demonstrate to smaller businesses the time and money that they are losing by not upgrading to an improved business broadband connection.

“The findings also clearly highlight an inertia amongst SMEs and a lack of knowledge about the business grade options that are available. Many small firms will invest in all areas of their business to improve its efficiency and boost overall productivity, but often overlook one of the most critical aspects of its infrastructure - broadband connectivity.”