Credit crunched small businesses are losing over £5,000 per year due to failing IT and technology equipment, according to a study conducted by O2.

O2 questioned 500 small businesses and found that poor internet connections, email and mobile email outage and malfunctioning computer hardware is leaving record numbers unable to work. Nearly half (49 per cent) lost business as a result of not being able to keep in touch with customers and suppliers. Four in ten (43 per cent) cited a loss of business due to low productivity from staff frustrated by slow IT systems or malfunctioning equipment.

Of the small businesses questioned, one quarter (25 per cent) revealed that these failures had left them unable to work for as much as 4 days a year, twice the average number of working days lost through staff illness. Over two in ten businesses (22 per cent) estimated the loss in revenue to be in excess of £5,000 per annum.

Feedback from respondents revealed that the loss to business is being compounded by DIY disasters around the office as small businesses shun professional help in a bid to cut costs. Over half (53 per cent) of the small businesses questioned prefer to fix IT or technology problems themselves rather than pay for professional help, with 65 per cent having no access to IT or Tech support. Nearly a third (31 per cent) revealed they turn to friends or colleagues for advice whilst 18 per cent are more likely to go to a friend or relative who has IT experience.

Despite trying to cut costs, the research revealed that twice the number of businesses taking the DIY approach had lost revenue as a result of IT or technology failures. One third (33 per cent) also admitted to spending an additional £2,000 a year replacing broken equipment with entirely new products rather than seek advice. PCs, laptops and mobile phones were the most common items to be replaced.

Simon Devonshire, head of O2 SME marketing, comments: “In the current economic environment it’s not surprising to see that small businesses are trying to cut costs – being flexible and quick to respond to changes in the market place is what makes small businesses as resilient as they are. However, it’s important that they work out what they can afford to cut back on and what outgoings will actually end up saving the company money in the long term.”

The findings revealed a growing reliance on IT and technology amongst the UK’s small business community. Email and mobile email failures were cited as the most detrimental to business success, rated above government red tape and staff disputes by over half (54 per cent) of respondents. Flexible working and advances in mobile technology, which has fuelled a surge in the number of small businesses working remotely has also been identified as increasing technology dependence. Nearly a quarter of small businesses (24 per cent) questioned revealed they now spend up to half of their time out of the office relying on mobile email and wireless networks to keep in touch.

Devonshire adds: “Small businesses are more likely to see the business benefit of a new technology and therefore tend to be the first to adopt and implement it throughout the company. Investing in technologies which increase productivity can help give businesses the edge in times of recession.”

In response to these findings, O2 has launched O2 Mobile Email Experts to provide enhanced technical support service so that small business customers can get the most from their mobile email services, and have piece of mind that if something does go wrong, an expert will be on hand to resolve the problem. Available as either a monthly subscription or one-off payment the O2 Mobile Email Experts service provides expert technical advice via a support line as well as on-site device set up, training and regular technical health checks.

Guy O’Connell, MD, Burn Marketing comments: “We never thought twice about downing tools and just trying to fix any technical hiccups ourselves – it feels like you’re admitting defeat having to get someone else to do it for you. It wasn’t until we’d expanded a bit and got a dedicated tech support service we realised how much valuable time we were losing trying to be IT technicians and not marketers. Now we’re able to concentrate on doing what we’re good at.”

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