The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report on how Australian businesses use information technology showed that a majority have adopted technology as a way to simplify workflow, business processes, and customer communication.
The data collected from the 2013-14 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS) examined how businesses have used IT, including internet access, broadband, web presence, social media, cloud computing, and internet commerce.
The overall results showed that between 2012-13 and 2013-14, businesses using information technology increased. When examining the areas where businesses used IT to a high extent, 60 percent used it for accounting, and 55 percent used it for invoicing business processes.
For the first time, the 2013-14 Business Characteristics Survey also collected information on how businesses use paid cloud computing. It showed that nearly one in five businesses use some form of paid cloud services.
Forty seven percent of those said the most common benefit they saw from using a paid cloud computing service was simplicity of deployment, followed closely by increased productivity, at 46 percent.
The ABS highlighted that the sector with the highest proportion of businesses that paid for cloud services was information media and telecommunications. This was in comparison to businesses in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector, where only 9 percent used paid cloud computing services.
Of those that used paid cloud computing, 87 percent said they used software as a service, followed by 57 percent that hosted their storage capacity in the cloud.
Meanwhile, 23 percent of businesses said a lack of knowledge limited or prevented their use of paid cloud computing services -- other reasons included risk of a security breach, uncertainty about the location of data, and high-cost cloud computing services.
During 2013-14, 37 percent of all businesses reported that IT support was provided by contractors or consultants, the ABS said. The sectors that relied the most on contractors or consultants were the mining and financial and insurance service industries.
However, a concerning 34 percent of businesses in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry had no IT support, followed by 31 percent of businesses in transport, postal, and warehousing during 2013-14, the survey results showed.
The results showed that when it came to internet connection, over 95 percent of businesses had internet access as of June 30, 2014. Of those, 99 percent had a broadband connection, with 68 percent connected via a digital subscriber line.
While DSL was the most favoured type of internet connection, the survey showed that businesses of 200 or more employees were three times more likely to have fibre to the premises (FttP) as their main type of connection than other businesses. Meanwhile, businesses with fewer than 19 employees were more likely to use mobile wireless as a way to connect to the internet.
The survey also examined what businesses used their internet connection for besides emails, and, according to the ABS, 85 percent used the internet to undertake financial activities including online banking, invoicing, and making payments. The second most common reported activity in the survey was using the internet for communication, excluding email.
Other internet-based activities included information gathering or research, online training, enabling employees to work from home or other locations; and for information sharing or data exchange.
The survey also revealed that during 2013-14, 47 percent of Australian businesses had a web presence.
For those businesses that did not have a web presence, the ABS said the main reason behind this was identified as being because businesses said they had no reason for one -- 51 percent of those businesses had five to nine employees. Meanwhile, businesses with 20 to 199 employees that were without a web presence were most likely to cite high setup costs, ongoing maintenance, and updating costs as reasons.
At the same time, the ABS survey indicated that almost a third of all businesses had a social media presence, compared with a quarter having a presence in the previous year. When businesses were asked why they chose to have a social media presence, the ABS said businesses wanted to develop company image or use it to market products and increase communication with customers.
During 2013-14, the survey also showed that income from orders received via the internet increased by 8 percent, from AU$246 billion in 2012-13 to AU$267 billion in 2013-14.