How much does outdated technology hurt SMB competitiveness?

How much does outdated technology hurt SMB competitiveness?

Summary: Putting off investments in new PCs and other infrastructure may save money in the short term, but research suggests sticking with older technology may hurt a small company's credibility with employees and customers.


When was the last time your small company overhauled its computers, Web site and other pieces of crucial IT infrastructure? The decision to put off these investments could be hurting it with both employees and customers, according to two separate research studies offered by Microsoft and Intel.

Before I get into the results, first let me address the very obvious fact that it's in both of these companies' interests to encourage technology purchases. That aside, the findings are worth consideration.

First, let's consider the Intel research (conducted by Techaisle), which suggests that small-business workers could be losing up to one work week per year because of old personal computers. Specificallhy, if a PC is four years or older, employees lose 21 hours on repairs, maintenance and security fixes, according to the Intel Small Business PC Refresh Study. The survey covered 736 small businesses with fewer than 100 employees in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russia and the United States.

The average cost to repair PCs four years or older is now around $427, according to the survey. That's about 1.3 times the amount needed to fix a system that is less than four years old.

Yet, more than one-third of the businesses surveyed (36 percent) are clinging to older systems, the Intel study found. Small companies in the United States were more inclined to make do as long as they can: 8 percent of the ones surveyed were using systems more than five years old, compared with 5 percent of the companies from other countries.

"PCs are largely considered the foundation for many of these companies, and this study makes a clear cut case for refreshing them on a regular basis," said Rick Echevarria, vice president of the PC Client Group and General Manager of the Business Client Platform division at Intel, in remarks about the data.

The Microsoft research looks at things from a customer perspective, and it's based on the opinions of 1,405 general consumers polled online via SurveyMonkey in September 2013.

Here are four of the main revelations: 

  • 61 percent think an SMB is outdated if it's using an operating system that is more than five years old
  • 25 percent think an SMB lacks credibility if it is using a free email service
  • 68 percent think "modern technology" is key to the success of a business
  • 70 percent said they were be "extremely or quite concerned" about providing personal information on an outdated SMB Web site

Even more than those findings, I especially appreciated the list of attributes that define a "modern SMB," according to the Microsoft study. Here they are, ranked by the percentage of respondents who expected these things:

  • Network security certificates that protect personal information (63.5 percent)
  • Email appointment confirmations (61.6 percent)
  • Real-time online chat and scheduling (59.8 percent)
  • Modern mobile devices including tablets and smartphones (57.8 percent)
  • The latest operating system (55.4 percent)
  • Mobile-friendly Web site (54 percent)
  • Mobile payment processing (50 percent)

Like I said earlier, you need to consider the source of this information: two vendors that would benefit from a pent-up refresh of desktop computers and operating systems. But if people in your company are still using a facsimile machine or handheld calculator on the job, you really should ask yourself why. 

Topic: SMBs

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  • no

    1) enterprises don't need new PCs (an old with antivirus and firewall is enough)
    2) better to employ open platforms = saving huge amount of money
  • Time Lost - old slow hardware

    As a computer technician, I have to work on some PC's that are really slow! The operators of these machines lose substantial time, waiting for their PC to respond. I'm sure some work doesn't take place, because of frustration, waiting for their computer to respond. This caused by insufficient memory, corrupted software (format - reload would help), old operating system (usually XP) etc. I even have to bill more time, because I have to wait also!
  • Outdated technology has no impact on small businesses

    Most small businesses use proprietary databases, basic Excel & Word features to run their companies. Everything else is optional. At a time when there is a complete lack of confidence in our Government structure, large IT companies, Microsoft, The Trusted Partner Group, TPM 2.0, Windows 8, NSA, IRS, Health Care, Over Regulation, etc.. It pays to wait it out. Hopefully small businesses are exploring Ubunto, Libre Office, pulling their networks offline and using a couple of detached PC's for email/online activities. Keep it simple, secure and focus on sales.
  • limited data set

    Heather wonder, given the companies sponsoring the studies:

    1) Was Wintel the only platform considered?

    Given the sponsors I expect so. It makes me curious what would be found if compared against other platforms? My own admitedly annectodatal experience is that for general purpose computing Intel/Linux performs much better than Intel/Windows, is much more reliable and costs much less.

    2) What use cases are being considered? In other words what's the scope of the assertion?

    POS, automated data collection, e.g. scanning terminals, and other single function or specialized uses may not change with adoption of a new platform. In other words still doing the same thing just replaced the box that does it.

    Regarding Microsoft's Survey Monkey results
    * 25 percent think an SMB lacks credibility if it is using a free email service
    * 70 percent said they were be "extremely or quite concerned" about providing personal information on an outdated SMB Web site

    What do these things have to do with an SMBs platform? Email with a business domain name isn't costly and isn't likely to be hosted and administered by a small business. Same holds for the small business web sites. They may have chosen their hosting provider poorly but that is an easy change and doesn't impact the technology owned by the SMB.

    I don't see how the survey results provided lend any credence to the article's premise that SMBs should update the technology they own. The stuff they buy as a service, perhaps. The stuff they own, no.
  • Validity inquiry Intel and Microsoft ?

    First of all it is evident that the inquiry by Microsoft might not be neutral because Open Source options are not included in it.

    Without reasonable doubt it is clear that SMB's could have reservations for purchasing up to date hardware and software. First of all it is a well known fact that proprietary software for the business sector is proportional expensive. Especially in Asian countries (due exchange currency). Maybe it should be a good move that Microsoft serves purely the consumer market and Linux the business market. Surveys have made clear recently that Linux' capacity of handling of data is much smoother than MS; the same with Database-applications (Postgresql is superb (free)) Not comparable with MSQL-server which is quite expensive. But not last but not least. With proprietary software you are not the owner!!! You have limited choice!! Above all you have to pay. Does this make sense? You decide for yourself............success