The growth in high-speed internet connectivity across Europe, the increasing adoption of cloud services, the consumerisation of IT and the move towards mobile working are trends that, in theory, play to the strengths of SMBs – allowing them to compete more effectively.
The proliferation towards cloud-based services such as Skype, Google Drive and Salesforce is also making life easier for employees– allowing staff to access content from anywhere and work collaboratively.
However, research of 2,500 European office-based workers recently conducted by ZyXEL, has found that while SMBs are starting to make the most of new technologies and services, there are inconsistencies with the progress being made in each country.
The best and the worst
Germany is leading the way when it comes to the adoption of cloud computing, with 44 per cent of staff saying they use cloud-based applications such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Salesforce. But this number was considerably ahead of any other region surveyed.
Only a quarter of businesses in the Netherlands said they are using cloud-based applications, and as many as 85 per cent of employees in Czech Republic say they are still not using cloud computing.
Furthermore, only 20 per cent of people in Czech Republic have the ability to work from home or off-site. On the other hand, nearly half (49 per cent) of Swedish workers said they have the ability to work remotely along with 44 per cent in the UK and Germany.
Cloud and BYOD
What is interesting here is that the number of respondents claiming to have the ability to work remotely far outnumbers those that have access to cloud-based applications. This raises the question of how productive office-based workers in SMBs can be when working off-site if they are not taking advantage of the latest technologies.
When asked about whether employers are enabling employees to use personal devices for work, almost 45 per cent of German respondents replied positively. However, this is in contrast to the UK where only 18 per cent office-based workers surveyed said they are able to use personal devices in the workplace.
CCMI research indicates that 17 per cent of IT managers see BYOD as a means of increasing employee productivity. The ability to deliver BYOD schemes relies on having secure, reliable connectivity on-site as well as embracing cloud-based platforms that can be accessed through mobile browsers and applications using different operating systems.
What features SMEs need
Ultimately, if global trends are to be believed, the use of cloud-based services is set to rise. Google Apps are used by 5 million businesses worldwide; more than half of US business use cloud computing; and an IBM survey from 2013 found that business see a 55 per cent increase in efficiency by using cloud services.
This means that it will no longer be enough for businesses to simply provide fast connectivity. On the contrary, they need a network that is reliable, can prioritise traffic, cope with external devices and provide piece of mind over security issues. For SMEs with limited IT budgets it’s therefore crucial that investment is put into the right areas and the best solutions selected.
By Lee Marsden, president of Europe for ZyXEL.