In a survey of 250+ business owners/managers throughout Ireland, 56% say that when it comes to IT, broadband is the biggest single challenge facing Irish SME’s. This was one of the findings of the nationwide survey carried out by Big Red Cloud, a leading supplier of online accounting software to the Irish SME market.

In the survey, respondents were asked their views pertaining to broadband provision and the visibility of their business online.

Speaking of the findings, Marc O Dwyer, CEO of Big Red Cloud,

“Being in the fin-tech space we are acutely aware of the fact that while developments in IT across the board can help businesses connect with their customers, and provide better products and services to them, leveraging this IT in an effective and cost-efficient manner brings with it a myriad of challenges. But which ones are most businesses throughout the country grappling with? This is what we sought to identify when we undertook this survey.

I’m not surprised that broadband related issues topped the poll. As a country we lag far behind in terms of the quality of broadband we can offer to all areas of this island. A staggering 96% of the business we surveyed are in agreement that businesses in rural Ireland are a huge competitive disadvantage due to poor quality broadband. What’s more, our survey looked at businesses in all areas of the country – not just rural – and of these 56% think that broadband is the single biggest challenge facing Irish SMEs.

The National Broadband Plan’s goal is to address this problem – but it’s slow-pace of progress is, understandably, the source of some frustration for businesses in many areas. Most recent stats show that as of December 2017, 69% of the 2.3 million premises around the country have access to high speed broadband. But what about the other 31% who are trying to carry out day-to-day business activities? The Plan commits to 77% having the same access by the end of the year – climbing to 90% in 2020. But as any small business owner will tell you – time is of the essence… a bad quarter could make or break these businesses, so many don’t have time to wait.”

The Big Red Cloud Business Sentiment survey also found,

Staff issues come second in IT-related challenges to SMEs (16%)
More than 1 in 10 of SME owners/managers think cyber-crime is the biggest problem for Irish SMEs

Ireland’s Online Economy

The Big Red Cloud survey revealed that the majority of Irish SMEs feel there is definitely room and need for improvement when it comes to the online presence of their business.

Mr. O Dwyer believes the survey shows that most business appreciate the importance of having a strong or at least adequate online presence,

“29% of these businesses are satisfied that their business requirements are met when it comes to online presence, and a further 60% recognise that more needs to be done. 10 years ago, these figures would have been a lot lower. But now, for a vast array of business sectors, the need to conduct at least some business online is growing, as evidenced by the fact that 75% of those surveyed responded that 10% or more of their business originates through their online presence. Furthermore, 17% of these SMEs say they get more than 30% of their business from online interactions.”

The experts at Big Red Cloud say that the evidence supports their contention that poor broadband provision will be to the detriment of local economies in areas outside major cities and urban business centres.

Mr. O Dwyer explained this position,

“Resent research from the ESRI revealed that local broadband access seems to attract almost all types of firms, while the appeal of an area for high-tech firms is also boosted by availability of high-speed “middle mile” infrastructure (Metropolitan Area Networks). So locations that are

unable to deliver in those areas will lose out when it comes to business start-ups.

Another report released last year showed that Ireland falls behind 25 other European states, 21 of which are in the EU, with Estonia, Jersey, Slovakia and Slovenia among the many countries and regions all providing better services. Analysis of over 63m broadband speed tests worldwide revealed Ireland is 36th worldwide, with an average speed of 13.92Mbps. At the time small business representative bodies were critical of Ireland’s ranking and voiced concerns over the lack of infrastructure investment in the country and its effect on the business landscape. Our survey supports, and furthers, these sentiments.”

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