As a small business grows, so does its reliance on IT and demand for data storage. It has to spend more, increase its server estate and take measures to ensure it can prevent, or at least survive, any outages.
A snapshot of how small businesses in western Europe are handling this has been delivered by research carried out last year by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by Dell and Intel. Titled Manage Your Changing IT Needs: A European Report on Servers and Storage for Small Business (opens in new tab), it makes it clear that many are likely to adopt a strategy involving cloud computing.
Covering 1,150 businesses in the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, it found that two-thirds regarded themselves as heavily dependent on IT and that only 5% thought they could function without it.
The key findings for the UK were that it was the only country with expenditure above the average, with 65% of respondents spending more than £10,000 a year and 16% spending more than £100,000. 90% regarded themselves as heavily dependent on IT, and 96% had experienced outages, with 22% suffering at least once a month.
It was also notable that 63% of the UK firms had at least 1TB of data and 37% had more than 2TB.
Servers are a critical component of how businesses from all the countries in the survey run their IT: 85% used a server and 64% had more than one, the average number being six. The majority used them for storing documents, files and content, running print and email and hosting databases. Other important applications were calendar programmes and customer relationship management software.
Small businesses face two big issues in managing all this: avoiding outages and ensuring that they can scale up smoothly.
This has prompted many of them to consider the cloud, but most have been cautious in how far they go. The survey showed that, while 58% were using it for file storage and 52% for backup, only 2% had moved all their applications to the cloud, and 85% expressed concerns about issues such as security, privacy and performance.
The report acknowledges that such concerns are inevitable, and that they are held by larger businesses, but says the promise of cloud computing should ensure that it is adopted by an increasing number of small firms.
Its conclusion is that more education is needed around cloud computing so they can make informed decisions, and make the right investments in their own server infrastructure to support the needs of their business.