Nearly three quarters of UK businesses experienced internet connection failures in the last year, preventing them from trading or accessing vital online services, costing them £12.3 billion in lost productivity and extra overtime.

Business internet service provider, Beaming, found that 72% of businesses – approximately 3.9 million across the UK – experienced internet downtime during working hours in the year to 31 March 2016, clocking up 149 million hours of internet downtime between them. The companies affected suffered 43 hours of lost connectivity and losses of £3,125 each on average, the equivalent of £521 per employee.

Economic impact

While more than one in ten businesses (13%) manage internet outages by switching to alternative connections and a quarter (25%) mitigate some downtime by moving to non-internet related tasks, day-to-day operations grind to a halt at more than a third of businesses (38%) when their internet connection fails. A quarter (23%) of business studied said that they were forced to remain open for longer to catch up with time lost due to outages.

Thirteen per cent of businesses studied said they started losing money immediately in the event of an outage. The proportion of firms suffering a financial impact rises to more than a quarter after an hour (28%) without connectivity and almost half (46%) after four hours.

Large and medium-sized businesses lose the fewest productive hours to internet downtime, however, their greater reliance on internet technologies and the inability of most to switch to alternative connections quickly in the event of an outage mean they lose a greater proportion of their revenues than smaller companies for every hour of outage they experience.

Connection habits

Businesses relying on consumer internet services suffered double the downtime (30 hours on average) experienced by users of business connections (16 hours). Despite this, half (51%) of micro businesses and 80% of sole traders continue to use broadband services designed for home use.

Email was the most important internet tool used by the businesses studied, with 81% of respondents saying that they relied on it to stay fully operational. Half of businesses (51%) use the internet to carry voice traffic, while around a third said they needed a consistent connection to access mission critical applications in the cloud (36%), online sales tools (34%) and for communication with their mobile workforce (33%).

Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming, said: “The internet is the greatest business resource ever invented, but our increasing reliance on connectivity creates new risks for those that need it the most. The pace of business is now such that any downtime means missed opportunities, lost productivity and a huge amount of stress as businesses race to get back on track. It is only when businesses experience a problem that they find their large, consumer orientated broadband provider expects them to self-cure problems online or queue for hours on the phone to gain assistance.

“Internet failures happen for all sorts of reasons, including equipment failures and malicious attacks. All businesses that use the internet should have a plan to ensure connectivity is restored quickly and that any disruption is minimised. The quality, reliability and consistency of service and the availability of technical support should be as important to business buyers as speed of service."