07/08/2015

By Peter Kelly, MD, Virgin Media Business

We commissioned research last month which found that decision makers within UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) see huge growth in digital ahead. When asked about whether they expect to use more digital technologies (such as a greater online presence, social media channels, online ordering or online customer service) over the next five years, the vast majority of those surveyed (92%) said they expect to either stay the same or become more digital. Two thirds (65%) of respondents expect to become more digital by 2020.

Reliable, high-speed internet can make the difference between thriving and merely surviving for the UK’s five million small and medium sized businesses. As more and more of daily life shifts online, their need for fast connections will grow.

For the leaders of those businesses, it’s important to think about how critical access to the digital world is to your business, whether that’s social media, Skype or simply allowing your customers to contact you or make orders via your website, and whether you expect digital channels to increase in significance over time.

The other big element to consider is how dependent your employees are on email, cloud-based services and the web to do their jobs, and whether you expect their digital dependency or the numbers of employees you have to increase – if so, it’s worth considering how much capacity you’ll need in the future.

However, our research showed that too often the nation’s small and medium sized businesses are in the dark when it comes to their internet requirements today, let alone for the future. More than a third of senior decision makers in SMEs with broadband (37%) are unaware of the maximum speed of their connection and more than seven out of 10 respondents (72%) don’t know how much data they use every month.

That’s understandable – as the economic environment continues to be challenging, many business leaders have placed their focus elsewhere, but it’s worth understanding if you’re getting what you’re paying for and if you have the capacity you need.

However, maximum speed outlined by some providers can be misleading. Fortunately there are lots of free, online speed checkers available, so it’s worth using one of these to see if the speed you receive is the same as the one advertised.

Our recent study found that today, over half (53%) of small business decision makers surveyed have experienced issues with slow broadband speeds which have hindered employees from doing their job.

This reinforces Ofcom’s recent Broadband services for SMEs report, which highlighted a lack of widespread superfast broadband availability and high levels of dissatisfaction with quality of service.