By Michael Moore
A strong and reliable WiFi connection has emerged as the most critical of all business factors for small and midsize companies, according to a new survey.
A study of 500 SMBs by networking firm Netgear has found that three-quarters (75 percent) of SMBs say that having a wireless network has become essential to the running of their business, as firms are increasingly looking to a mobile workforce to enhance productivity and employee flexibility.
This rises to 84 percent of firms with more than 100 employees, but many companies say that they are, in fact, being held back by poor network reliability and concerns about data breaches.
The study found that one in three firms have struggled to implement an effective and secure wireless service, and a third had considered abandoning plans for a workplace wireless network following a possible data security risk.
Just under a third (31 percent) said that they had also considered abandoning wireless plans following a bad experience with poor network quality and reliability; with a quarter (25 percent) saying they were unsure how to introduce wireless into their existing IT infrastructure—which rose to 35 percent of firms with more than 100 employees.
But as the costs of installing a network continue to fall as more of us become connected, the benefits of having such wireless infrastructure are being enjoyed by more and more businesses, the survey found.
Just under three-fourths (74 percent) of the firms surveyed said that working wirelessly was making them more productive, with two-thirds saying that reliable connections help them keep pace with the competition.
"Successful small and medium-sized companies often rely on their employees to do many varied tasks and adapt quickly to customer demands," said Jonathan Hallatt, Netgear's regional director for the U.K., Ireland and South Africa.
"People quite simply work better when they can communicate, access and share information from wherever they are in the workplace. A resilient wireless network allows you to respond to guests and colleagues, and take bookings or orders using an Internet-enabled device wherever you happen to be. Productivity will improve and your customers will be happier."
Recent findings from Ofcom showed that some SMBs feel that they are unable to benefit from competitively priced infrastructure price plans, with many unable to secure the deals received by large enterprises, which benefit from scale and a competitive market. The regulator has now said it will carry out further research to discern how businesses (rural companies in particular) are able to get the mobile and broadband services they need to operate and grow effectively.