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The Internet is providing a lifeline to small businesses, with 79 per cent of those questioned saying that it is making the road to recovery easier this time round than in previous recessions according to a new report released by internet service provider, Easynet Connect.
The Internet has clearly become an integral part of most strategies, with 81 per cent estimating that they could not cope any longer than a day without it, and of that group 48 per cent unable to last longer than an hour, 29 per cent no longer than 30 minutes, and 14 per cent unable to cope at all without the Internet.
Small Business and Computing Systems
Despite the recession, small companies are also looking to invest in computing systems – providing opportunities for small business software manufacturers. Over a third of those asked in the survey (38 per cent) are investing in their IT infrastructure, while 30 per cent are looking at increasing staff training, and around 15 per cent are looking at recruiting more people and improving staff retention.
This investment in small business software is considerably greater than other areas of investment by small businesses. For example, lower down the list of priorities is launching new products and entering new markets (21 per cent) and increasing marketing spend (14 per cent). All of these measures suggest that businesses are concentrating on improving in-house processes, ensuring they are as efficient and productive as possible when growth returns.
In a press statement accompanying the survey, Chris Stening, managing director of Easynet Connect, said: “The predominant sentiment among small to medium-sized firms seems to be one of ‘cautious optimism’. Earlier this year we found that 2010 would be the year SMEs embraced cloud computing.
Small Business Looks to Cloud Computing
“With most small-to-medium businesses not expecting growth this year, we can see that this spend on cloud computing, as with investment in other aspects of IT, training, and recruitment is all part of the strategy to future-proof their business in preparation for growth and beyond,” he added. “In contrast to previous downturns, the Internet increasingly lies at the core of small businesses’ operations – from marketing their products, conducting research, collaborating with colleagues or providing access to significantly better value cloud computing software and services.”
Scaling up is also very important, believes Stening. “Small businesses need to ensure their Internet capabilities – essentially the very heart of their business – can scale with them,” he said. “For many, fibre connections, with their ability to scale far beyond their current 100 Mbps speeds in the future, are proving to be the cost-effective solution to this problem.”
Research from the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses released as part of its Voice of Small Business survey found that 24 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with their broadband service. Of those small firms that are dissatisfied, 63 per cent said they are unhappy with the speed and reliability of their internet connection supplied by their service provider.
When recession bites, it’s always tempting to cut investment along with other expenditure but this research suggests that SMEs are looking to the long term by making investments now in time for when the economy improves.
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When a small business is just starting out, the expenses can seem overwhelming. As the business owners shops for one thing after another, the start up budget shrinks so fast. Luckily, there is one spot where home businesses or small businesses can save quite a bit of money. Quite a few business related software needs can be met by free program options.
Home Office Accounting Software
Accounting software can carry a hefty price tag, but it doesn’t have to. Small business owners have several free alternatives to expensive software packages.
- For someone who is looking for a way to manage basic accounting functions, from invoicing customers to creating eBay listings, Microsoft’s free Office Accounting Express software is a great option. This software is basically a lite version of the robust Office Accounting Professional that Microsoft sells, but most small businesses don’t need all the bells and whistles the professional version offers.
- Looking for full rebates on accounting software is another smart alternative. Small business owners should pay close attention to office supply store sale circulars during the first quarter of the year. The stores take advantage of the natural desire to get organized and to do better on tax preparations next year by offering rebates on expensive accounting software packages. Just be sure to send in all rebate information immediately.
Home Office Desktop Processing Software
The Microsoft Office Publishing Suite can cost several hundred dollars for a small business. While a thrifty entrepreneur may be able to save a bit of money by buying the software bundle with a new business computer, there are some money saving options for those business owners who are not in the market for a new PC or Mac.
Most PC computers come with a free word processing software package called Microsoft Works. For a business that is planning to type a few basic letters or create very simple spreadsheets, this lightweight software is more than enough.
For a home business with more sophisticated needs, there is a great free solution called Open Office. This office suite includes word processing, database, spreadsheet and presentation software. It is designed to be able to open documents that are saved in Microsoft format or to save new documents in traditional .doc or .xls formats.
So, whether a business owner is looking for a basic software package to bring an established company into the technological age or software solutions for a new company, choosing one of the great free or cheap accounting and desktop publishing software options is a smart idea. After all, there are so many other things a business can spend those precious dollars on.