A survey finds a slew of risky IT practices among cost-conscious businesses, including WiFi piggybacking.
Resource-and-cash-strapped small businesses struggling to cut costs
in a slow economy are leaving simple cost-savings options on the table
and putting data at risk, according to a recent survey from Lenovo. The
Lenovo-AMD Small Business Tech Survey, which sought to identify common
issues and trends in technology use by small businesses, also uncovered
and in some cases alarming-
including relying on "piggybacking" on nearby WiFi networks and saving
critical business files on USB thumb drives.
The survey of more than 700 small business professionals indicates that
stretched-thin staff and fierce competition means more and more
employees will be working on vacation over the holidays. More than four
in five (85 percent) small business professionals agree they conduct
work outside the office. The vast majority (72%) of
respondents rarely take an e-mail-free vacation.
In order to keep up with their hefty workload, many respondents agreed
they rely on a mobile device such as a laptop or smartphone. The most
preferred devices are laptops (38%) and smartphones (31%), according to survey results. Despite the consequences of data
loss, the survey indicated that many small businesses are backing up
critical business data using highly disposable and insecure methods.
While 40 percent of small businesses back up files to external hard
drives, 50 percent of respondents said they or their company use USB
thumb drives and CDs/DVDs to back up important information.
Other secure and cost-effective means of data storage, such as Web-based cloud storage, were seldom used by the small businesses
surveyed. While 43 percent of respondents are at least somewhat
familiar with cloud computing, only 13 percent say they are using an
online storage service-
the least of all backup methods cited.
For many respondents, WiFi in their home or office is the primary means
of connecting to the Internet with their company-issued laptop.
However, some respondents admitted to connecting to unsecured WiFi
networks ("piggybacking") in order to conduct business: A quarter of
respondents reported they or someone in their company piggyback other
available WiFi networks to conduct business. In addition, almost one in
five senior-level executives (17%) and proprietor/owners (17%) surveyed say they piggyback on wireless networks.
Despite the cost benefits of VOIP (Voice over IP)
technology, the study found 70 percent of small businesses are not
using VOIP for business calls. Almost nine in 10 (87%) small
business professionals are somewhat or not at all familiar with the
term "unified communications," which is the integration of voice,
video, audio and instant messaging tools.
The results of the survey also highlighted the importance that small
businesses place on personal brand reputation and appearance. Revealing
the need to make a good first impression in a business meeting or new
business pitch, the survey found nearly 70 percent of respondents
agreed that the appearance of a laptop issued by a small business is a
reflection of that company's commitment to quality and service.
The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris
Interactive on behalf of Lenovo between Oct. 14 and Nov. 9,
2010, among 722 adults ages 18 and over who owned or were employed by a
small business with no more than 500 employees.