Five years since its launch, ADSL has finally replaced dial-up completely as the connection of choice for the South African SME. This was among the key findings of SME Survey 2008 on the use of information and communication technologies by small to medium South African companies.
“Acceptance of ADSL connectivity has been rapid since its introduction in 2003; in 2005, SME Survey anticipated that it would steadily replace dial-up as the connection of choice, but the speed of acceptance has been surprising,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx and principal researcher for SME Survey.
Today, for the first time, less than 10% of SMEs that use computers connect to the Internet via dialup, while ADSL is favoured by 63% – exactly the proportion using dial-up five years ago. Wireless broadband as the primary connection moves above 10% for the first time at 10.1%.
“This is a confirmation that ADSL is not a hype-driven technology. While it was originally seen as expensive, users soon discovered that in terms of overall cost, it is far cheaper than dialup; the value proposition has gradually become clearer and today it is a no-brainer for the SME owner or director,” says Goldstuck.
Another technology-related issue where the value proposition should be crystal-clear is that of data backup. However, while Goldstuck says just about every computer user understands and appreciates the value of their data; he says only 49% of SMEs backup data daily or continually. “Some 10% make continual backups, and 39% do a backup daily. These are the only business owners who are taking good care of themselves and ensuring no loss of productivity,” he comments.
Worryingly, says Goldstuck, nearly half of SMEs are not sufficiently diligent. “The 20% who make weekly backups are at some risk, but the danger of data loss is magnified dramatically for the 16% who do it monthly. Then there is the 9% who don’t know if or when backups are made at all – they are a disaster waiting to happen.”
The implications of this negligence is made clear by the fact that power failures were the single biggest factor in data loss for SMEs in the past year, with 15% saying they had suffered as a result.
Additionally, Goldstuck says only 46% of the businesses surveyed have a disaster recovery plan.
He says this is a glaring gap in the SME landscape and is an opportunity for solution providers to assist SMEs to improve their processes where data protection is concerned.
Staying with the theme of protection, SMEs generally protect their data quite well in terms of usage. Goldstuck says the research indicates that 84% of these businesses have antivirus software – an appreciative majority, but that still leaves 16% vulnerable to an obvious and inevitable threat. Spyware protection is used by 78% of SMEs. “This is a more specialised form of protection; it is built into most antivirus suites but is still sometimes a separate application,” he notes, suggesting that SMEs have picked up fast on this issue. But with just 61% of SMEs using a firewall – which is provided as a feature of most Windows operating systems – he says that may indicate that users don’t know how to initiate this tool in the operating system.
Danny de Beer, business development director at Fujitsu Siemens Computers, says he believes SMEs are increasingly taking advantage of what the ICT sector has to offer in support of improved convenience and productivity. “With more SMEs using ADSL, it is apparent that they are taking advantage of the Internet to support their objectives. The ICT industry has also adjusted its focus to bring more systems and technologies to market that are specifically geared at the SME, delivering advantages such as simple set-up and maintenance, further supporting the ability of SME owners to get more done in less time.”
SME Survey is sponsored by Standard Bank and Fujitsu Siemens Computers. It is in its sixth year and tracks trends and opinions of more than 5 000 South African small, medium and micro enterprises.