Internet cost battle boosts Aust SME uptake

The ongoing battle between Internet service providers to deliver the lowest cost Internet services has helped increase small and medium-sized enterprises' use of and dependency on the Internet.A newly-released International Data Corp study entitled "Australia's small-to-medium enterprise Internet User Profile" says "Internet is becoming more available to employees, and a more important source of revenue for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The ongoing battle between Internet service providers to deliver the lowest cost Internet services has helped increase small and medium-sized enterprises' use of and dependency on the Internet.

A newly-released International Data Corp study entitled "Australia's small-to-medium enterprise Internet User Profile" says "Internet is becoming more available to employees, and a more important source of revenue for small and medium-sized enterprises."

According to the study, the importance of the Internet to business is increasing, not just as a source of information about products and competition and to communicate via e-mail, but more importantly as a source of revenue.

Internet access for all employees amongst businesses surveyed increased by 10 percent to 63.7 percent in comparison to last year. Broadband is considered to be a major factor on the increase, with networking also on the rise.

Two major factors small-to-medium enterprises look for when choosing Internet service providers are service level guarantees and cost effective Internet access.

"It makes sense that these are the top two responses. SMEs are very focused on costs, but they also need to know that if they have a problem it will be dealt within an acceptable time frame," said IDC market analyst Brad Hill.

IDC's study found that almost a quarter of the SMEs surveyed were expecting more than 20 percent of their revenue to come from the Internet in 2004. The longer a business uses the Internet, the more revenue they are expecting it to return.

Approximately 80 percent of respondents with Internet access have a homepage, 20 percent of these businesses sell products or services online, 21 percent take orders via mail or phone from the Internet and only 8 percent advertise on homepage banners.