A survey of small and midsize businesses shows that the more confident SMBs are with their use of IT, the better they use it as a business tool and a competitive edge.
So says Symantec, according to the results of its newly released SMB IT Confidence Index survey. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security software giant canvassed some 2,452 SMBs--companies with anywhere from 10 to 250 employees--in 20 countries worldwide, and asked them a battery of questions to determine how confidently they approached their use of computing.
The confidence levels demonstrated by each company allowed Symantec to place them into one of three tiers: top, middle and bottom. The differences between the top and bottom tiers, Symantec claims, were illustrative of how a company's approach to IT influenced both its use of IT and its business strategy.
Symantec's first insight: IT confidence is top-down, not bottom-up. An SMB's use of IT comes mainly from the company founder's previous business experience, with more top-tier SMBs (74%) than bottom-tier ones (61%) influenced by this approach. "As a result," said Symantec, "the top-tier businesses are far more likely to use IT as a strategic business enabler, by almost a 2-to-1 ratio of 83% to 44%."
Consequently, "tech-confident" SMBs spend more money, and spend it more often, on "high-quality elements in their computing infrastructure, while also investing in advanced initiatives like mobility and the cloud." Top-tier SMBs see these things as being more worth the cash, and the risk, ostensibly because they have more of a sense of how to make the most of them in their business.
Top SMBs also apparently self-rate themselves as more secure and suffering fewer cyberattacks, although it's not clear from the report how reliable it is to have SMBs rate themselves on their own security competence (shades of the Dunning-Kruger effect). But one conclusion from the survey that's harder to contest is the notion that top-tier SMBs take security, including disaster-preparedness and data protection, much more seriously than their less tech-confident counterparts.
Symantec's report also contains a number of recommendations for how to become what the company classifies as a top-tier SMB. Symantec's first suggestion, which can be summed up as "spend on value, not price," makes sense: "While a solution may have smaller cost in the short term, such as deploying free or consumer-grade technology, more robust tools often prove the most valuable in the long term."
That said, it's not clear if the term "free" here refers to free/open-source software (FOSS), free tiers of consumer-grade services, freely available commercial applications, or some combination of those three. All of those, especially FOSS, have a value that ought to be assessed independently of hype or fads.
Symantec's other recommendations--that more aggressive deployment of advanced initiatives pays off in achieving business goals and organizations need to keep information safe--ought to be fairly self-evident for any reasonably tech-savvy SMB. What's more valuable are specific instructions on how to do those things, although it's easy to see how Symantec believes it can provide plenty of products for the second item on that list.
Serdar Yegulalp is a veteran IT journalist.
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