Survey shows that most small businesses feel the need to keep up with technology, but many have yet to adopt the cloud

If the estimated 28 million small businesses in the U.S. are seen as a huge driver to the national economy, why are some far more nimble and knowledgeable about new technology than others?

The Microsoft Office team put that question — and many more — to hundreds of businesses that operate with 500 or fewer employees to measure familiarity with modern technology. The results may surprise you.

Eighty-six percent of small businesses say keeping up with technology is important to their business, but 60 percent surveyed do not use cloud technologies. The survey, commissioned by Microsoft Corp. and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, also said 60 percent of these smaller businesses attribute increased revenue to technology, but 10 percent are not even familiar with the cloud.

 Most small businesses are actually very small. An estimated 92 percent of small businesses in the U.S. have fewer than four employees.

That means small-business owners have a lot on their plates. Having a nimble approach to business helps owners stay competitive — and part of that is being able to access data and tools using multiple devices from any location. But often, the owners themselves not only develop the strategies to keep up with their evolving business landscape and new customer demands, but they are also left to run the entire show behind the scenes, from finance to HR to IT management.

It’s easy to understand that lack of time and technical expertise would make it overwhelming to adopt new technologies. In addition, small-business owners note the following three concerns that keep them from keeping up with the latest technologies:

Small businesses require cost-effective, secure and reliable solutions that enable them to be productive from anywhere — and they have very little time to implement and manage those solutions. But what 60 percent of small businesses don’t realize is that cloud technologies can address all of these concerns. Cloud solutions allow small businesses to work online or offline, from anywhere, at any time and from any device. With access to the same productivity tools that large companies use, business owners can focus on growing their business and staying competitive. The beauty of using cloud technologies is that solutions can easily grow and scale as business needs evolve and change.

 According to the survey, 56 percent of small-business owners spend a third or more of their time working away from the office, and two out of five spend at least half their time working remotely.

Collaboration and communications tools such as Lync, Skype and Yammer make it easy for employees to connect with each other, customers and partners, in a variety of ways from any location, so working remotely doesn’t mean you’re unavailable or disconnected from your team.

The survey also revealed that 36 percent of small businesses manually collect and store content on hard drives, while 26 percent primarily use filing cabinets and folders to collect, store and share content. In addition, 14 percent use online storage services for content combined with email to collaborate, 12 percent use online storage services for content combined with online collaboration tools, and 12 percent say they do not have a good solution for collecting, storing and sharing content.

 Content storage is an important issue for small businesses. In the event of a disaster, such as a burglary, fire or flood, information stored in folders and filing cabinets can easily be destroyed. Similarly, hard drives can fail, get stolen or be damaged, and years’ worth of content and information will go along with it.

Business-grade cloud storage solutions such as OneDrive for Business provide a secure solution for storing and managing important files and customer information. Because information is stored in the cloud, it is easily accessible from any location for editing or viewing.

Nearly 40 percent of small-business owners say they use technologies not intended for business, such as home or student versions, to address cost concerns. Not only are these versions not licensed for use in any commercial, nonprofit or revenue-generating business activities, but they also don’t include certain applications that make doing business easier. However, cloud services built for businesses, such as Office 365, offer enterprise-grade productivity, collaboration, security and compliance at a custom-fit price point, so the smallest businesses can use the same tools as large enterprises, without the additional investment in IT staff or infrastructure.

By embracing cloud services, small businesses can achieve a level of flexibility and security that used to be unique to companies with large IT departments and big budgets. Now, small businesses can streamline and simplify IT with solutions like Office 365.

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Microsoft News Center Staff