Wireless technologies are becoming increasingly crucial to survival for today's small businesses, who are wanting to stay competitive and connected while gaining flexibility and time away from the office, according to the AT&T Small Business Technology Poll, a national survey recently conducted by telecommunications firm AT&T.
The results are based on an online survey of 2,023 small business owners and employees responsible for IT.
The survey found nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of small businesses said they could not survive-or it would be a major challenge to survive-without wireless technology. This is up from a similar 2007 AT&T survey in which only about four in 10 (42 percent) of small businesses said they would have difficulty surviving without wireless technologies. Smartphones, WiFi hot spots and laptop data cards are also growing in importance for small businesses wanting to stay connected while on the go, results revealed.
Depending on where they're located, small businesses had varying opinions on the importance and use of wireless technology. Based on responses to three components - perceived importance of wireless, use of wireless technology and attitude on the impact of wireless technology-a Wireless Quotient, or "WiQ," was calculated for each of 10 markets surveyed. Businesses in Atlanta and Oklahoma ranked highest in WiQ, with Dallas, San Francisco and Kansas City rounding out the top five markets
Despite the economic recession, the survey found few small businesses have cut back on their use of wireless technology. Even businesses that reduced or maintained their overall technology budget from 2008-nearly 80 percent of small businesses surveyed-have not cut back on their use of wireless technologies and expect to rely more on wireless technology over the next two years, suggesting its growing importance among small businesses.
"Wireless technology is a critical business tool that allows mobile workers to stay in touch with colleagues and customers, and to access company data on the move," said Timothy Doherty, an associate research analyst for SMB Mobility at research group IDC. "Reliance on wireless technology will only increase, as growing adoption of mobile business applications among small businesses drives the need for fast, reliable connectivity."
Ebrahim Keshavarz, vice president of AT&T's small business product management, said the growing dependence on wireless technologies is likely to continue to increase going forward, noting about three-fourths (74 percent) of survey respondents said they expect to depend on it even more two years from now. In addition, the survey found more than three times as many small businesses today strongly agree that wireless technology is key to keeping them competitive: 49 percent versus 16 percent in 2007.
"Small businesses that understand the value of wireless technologies and are able to maximize the benefits they offer can create competitive advantage in the marketplace," said Jeff Kagan, an independent wireless and telecom industry analyst. "While the concept of WiQ may not completely define which businesses succeed and those that don't, it can serve as a barometer of the potential impact on the bottom line."