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Survey finds technology is critical for small business owners but many have yet to adopt cloud solutions

Only 30% of small businesses are using cloud technology and 10% are not familiar with cloud technology.

We’re celebrating small business week this week in the US. A survey of over 500 small business owners found that 86 percent believe technology is important to the success of their company, including enabling quick and informed response to customers.

The survey, commissioned by Microsoft for National Small Business Week, looked at what role technology plays for companies making up this critical part of the economy. While the results show there is clear significance of technology, many small businesses are missing out on the value of cloud technology.

60 percent of small businesses attribute increased revenue to technology and another 60 percent feel technology allows them to compete with similar size and/or larger companies. But even with these sentiments in mind, small business owners still cited their top three technology concerns as:

  • Costs to maintain or upgrade the business’s technology (35 percent)
  • Security (22 percent)
  • The ability to access content from multiple devices in any location (16 percent).

These concerns certainly make sense when you think about the many responsibilities of small business owners. 66 percent of small business owners manage IT for their businesses and nearly 31 percent fill even more roles, from CFO to CMO, COO and CIO. These findings tell us a number of things: despite understanding technology can have a significant impact on their company, small businesses need cost effective, secure and reliable solutions that enable them to be productive from anywhere – and they have very little time to implement and manage those solutions.

So it’s all the more surprising that only 30 percent of small businesses are using cloud technology and 10 percent are not familiar with cloud technology at all. The power of cloud solutions like Office 365 provide small businesses with the same computing power as much larger companies, while addressing key concerns about upgrades, security and mobility, as noted above. Office 365 can alleviate these concerns with automatic upgrades, built in enterprise grade security and access to mission-critical content from any location and any device – greatly easing the burden of IT management on small business owners.

This becomes increasingly important when considering that 56 percent of respondents spend 30 percent or more of their time working remotely. Additionally, nearly 30 percent of respondents said that they still primarily use filing cabinets and folders to manage their content, while 12 percent said that they do not have a good solution for collecting, storing and sharing content.

“I had similar technology concerns for my business, but we were able to alleviate all of these issues by using Office 365,” said Marcus Johnson, founder and CEO of FLO Wines. “I’m able to easily take care of business matters while I’m away from the office, communicate with my employees and get work done from my smartphone or my laptop while I’m traveling – literally in the air where there may or may not be service. Office 365 makes it so easy to track store sales and share calendars so we can align with wine and music events around the world.”

The survey also found that upgrading the company website is a priority for half of small businesses surveyed (50 percent), while technology provider GoDaddy, in a separate survey, found customers are nine times more likely to choose a business that uses a domain-based email address, with more than half of them (65 percent) noting the importance of a modern website for first impressions. Earlier this year we partnered with GoDaddy to make it easier for small businesses to get Office 365, custom domains, professional websites, and domain based email accounts more quickly and all from one place.

“I have multiple businesses and multiple worksites and needed a reliable customer facing email address that matched who my customers were doing business with,” said Dan Moore, owner of Ninja Cow Farm. “Prior to using Office365 from GoDaddy I was having a lot of trouble with my POP3 email and some other issues with the technology tools I was using to run Ninja Cow Farm. Upgrading to Office365 from GoDaddy has been worth the money – it has solved all of my problems and is helping me run Ninja Cow Farm successfully. To put it simply, this is the way things are supposed to work.”

A few scenarios for a small business person when technology will come in handy:

  1. Wi-Fi isn’t available on your flight – with a well-chosen productivity tool, you can use the option of working offline and then synchronize everything later.
  2. Change devices, keep the formatting – Office 365 provides the highest standards for maintaining document format; whether you are working alone, with others, at your PC, using a web browser, on a tablet or on a smart phone.
  3. You forgot the most recent version of your documents – here a personal storage server for documents can help, like OneDrive for Business, where the latest versions of documents are always securely stored and synchronized to all connected devices, so they’re accessible from anywhere, even if you are offline. Through a simple link you can invite colleagues or customers to work on a document together with you.
  4. You need quick consultation with the team – contact your colleagues or partners using audio- or video-conferencing with add options for document sharing and editing with Lync.
  5. You’re looking for new ideas – use enterprise social tools with your internal team or with external partners through tools like Yammer.

As I mentioned earlier this week, today, we will host a roundtable discussion for small businesses and industry experts on the topic of how small businesses can succeed with technology. You can tune in to the live stream right now or view the replay. If these survey results are any indication, it’s sure to be a lively and robust discussion.

–Kirk Gregersen, General Manager, Microsoft Office

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The survey was conducted on behalf of Microsoft from April 29 to May 7, 2014. For the survey, 551 small business owners were interviewed online, identified among a representative national sample of 5149 adults aged 18+. A sample of this size has a margin of error of ± 4.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. A complete description of questions asked detailed tables can be found here.