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Online security causing pause for thought for SMBs

Online security is causing concern for Kiwi SMEs, with two-thirds of New Zealand business operators worried about online security according to the latest MYOB Digital Nation report.

That concern comes against a backdrop of improved satisfaction with internet services and increased UFB uptake.

The report, which surveyed more than 1000 Kiwi business owners and operators, shows losing access to data is a key concern, cited by 44% of respondents. Hackers gaining access to business data (42%), and losing control of their data (34%) also featured high.

Other concerns included the Government accessing their data, competitors seeing their information and snooping by foreign governments.

James Scollay, MYOB New Zealand general manager, says local businesses are right to be cautious, but shouldn’t let fear of cyber-crime stop them from utilising the benefits of the online environment.

“As use of technology – and in particular adoption of online services – becomes widespread, SMEs are becoming increasingly vigilant and aware of the risks to their security,” Scollay says.

“A maturing approach to online security is a good thing, as long as we are balancing the true risks with the wide-ranging opportunities of embracing technology.”

He says good security practices such as maintaining software updates, firewalls and antivirus measures, go a long way towards making businesses secure when accessing the internet or working in the cloud.

“At the same time, reputable companies that offer online products and services are investing heavily in maintaining the highest levels of security.”

Interestingly, those in Hawkes Bay (77%) were most likely to be worried about online security, along with those in Wellington (74%). Business operators in Northland (51%) and the Bay of Plenty (54%) were more laid back about it all.

Better connections, better revenue

The report also shows increased satisfaction with the speed, reliability and cost of internet plans, and greater use of UFB – and an accompanying improvement in revenue for those using UFB.

Business operators are also reporting improved satisfaction with both the speed and reliability of their internet plans – up from 40% in September 2014 to 49% in March.

Levels of dissatisfaction have dropped from 33% to 29% in the same period.

The cost of internet plans also put a smile on more small businesses faces, with satisfaction climbing from 30% to 41% and dissatisfaction falling from 38% to 28%.

Also on the up is the proportion of SMEs connected to ultrafast broadband, with 24% now using UFB, compared with 19% six months ago.

Christchurch has shown the lowest level of growth in UFB connection for SMEs – and one of the lowest connection levels nationwide, at 16% in March 2015.

Wellington has increased from 21% to 26% and Auckland from 28% to 32%.

UFB connection outside the main centres has also increased, from 14% to 19%, with Hawkes Bay the most connected region (37%) and Northland least connected at 15%.

Businesses connected to UFB have performed better during the latest survey period with 37% reporting improved revenue in the year to March 2015, compared to 31% of those without a UFB connection.

As in previous Digital Nation reports, businesses with an online presence are more likely to report an increase in revenue (38%) than the SME average (32%), which bodes well with 47% of Kiwi SMEs now reporting they have an online presence.

Twenty-three per cent of those only have a business website, 7% are just using social media and 17% have both a website and social media.

Scollay says the report highlights that at every level, if a business is more engaged online, and has better access in terms of speed, reliability and cost, it is more likely to earn more.

“What this means is not only more opportunity to grow for individual businesses but also a greater potential to increase returns throughout the country – particularly to more remote areas which don’t have the same access to markets and customers without the internet,” he says.

“While business owners are right to be taking a cautious approach to one of their most vital assets – their data – it’s very important we don’t let that concern cloud the opportunities the internet can bring for every SME.”