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SMBs: Cost vs. Quality, End-of-life Policies Highlighted in New Survey

Sometimes when you put cost over other factors, you end up getting what you paid for -- trouble.

That’s just one of the conclusions I drew from an online survey of over 500 IT managers at small businesses in the U.S. sponsored by HP and conducted by Wakefield Research. When asked, “How often, if ever, does your company place cost concerns above the best solution when budgeting for IT?” 22 percent answered “All the time.” Over half (56 percent) responded “some of the time.”

It’s all part of a do-more-with-less, tighten-your-belt approach to IT budgets. Overall, 93 percent of all small companies report having at some time put cost concerns ahead of buying the “best” solution, and of these, 89 percent have experienced problems, including slow performance (46 percent), out-of-date equipment (37 percent), hardware reliability (23 percent), hardware with a short life cycle (22 percent), or hardware that wasn’t energy efficient (22 percent).

I was amused by one question in particular: “Which of the following takes up the most time for you and your IT staff?” Your staff? You mean the guy or gal running around trying to keep everything running in addition to their regular duties? Many small businesses I know don’t have a formal IT staff -- keeping PCs running and workstations connected is just one of the tasks this go-to person must juggle.

Whoever’s in charge, given the cost-as-a-key-factor attitude, it’s no wonder such support people are facing software issues (41 percent) and network/connectivity issues (33 percent) most often.

What’s most in need of improvement? Processing speed according to more than a third (35 percent), followed by reliability (19 percent) and data security (15 percent).

What’s also needed (whether the majority of small businesses realize it or not) is an overhaul to their security policies for retiring equipment. When asked if their company’s “end-of-life” policy for disposal of “outdated computers” protected confidential information still residing on the equipment, only 43 percent could “strongly agree” that they were protected; a third (33 percent) “somewhat agreed,” and 12 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed. That’s a red flag as far as I’m concerned. Fortunately, 88 percent of companies have an end-of-life policy. Now if they’d only spend the $50 or so to get a disk-wipe program.

This year, small businesses have spent or plan to spend money on laptops (60 percent), desktops (57 percent), data storage (47 percent) and smartphones (44 percent). Currently, 37 percent say their biggest program with their existing computers is that they’re too old; a quarter (25 percent) say they don’t have sufficient processing power.

In summer, over a quarter (27 percent) aid more employees work remotely; 27 percent also said their employees spend more time working remotely.

--James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted by Jim Powell on 07/29/2011 at 11:53 AM