Small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) who show more confidence in their IT departments are better at using IT to boost their business – yet Canada lags behind in its support of IT, says a new report from security solutions provider Symantec Corp.

In a February study of about 2,500 SMBs from 20 countries around the world, Symantec gauged SMBs’ responses to build what they call “an SMB Confidence Index.” This index measures how confident the businesses were in using IT in their everyday work, separating businesses into three tiers based on how comfortable they were with IT.

Businesses which were more likely to use IT performed better than their IT-wary counterparts, the study found. Of the SMBs surveyed, 81 per cent of those in the top tier, or most IT-friendly, said computing was somewhat to extremely effective in amplifying their market share. Only 35 per cent of those in the bottom tier said they felt IT was a good way to get a bigger slice of the market. However, within Canada, only 48 per cent of SMBs felt computing was an important way to drive market share.

(Image: Symantec. Infographic showing top tier, mid tier and bottom tier businesses' IT confidence)
(Image: Symantec. Infographic showing top tier, mid tier and bottom tier businesses’ IT confidence)

Another 78 per cent of top tier businesses said they felt their data was secure, and 51 per cent of these IT-embracing businesses said they had fewer cyberattacks. Just 39 per cent of bottom-ranked businesses reported feeling comfortable with their data security. Sixty-eight per cent of Canadian SMBs said they felt their data was safe.

Interestingly enough, most top-tier SMBs actually spent seven per cent less on computing than their bottom-tier peers. Symantec suggested this might be because they took the time to research and spend money on the right technology for the companies from the outset.

(Image: Symantec. Infographic showing companies' confidence in IT).
(Image: Symantec. Infographic showing companies’ confidence in IT).

All of this IT confidence goes back to SMB founders, the Symantec report says. Founders who treat IT as a viable business strategy passed that philosophy onto their businesses, with 83 per cent of top tier businesses being more likely to invest in a solid IT infrastructure and to use computing platforms like cloud and mobile devices. Those SMBs were more likely to perceive cloud and mobility as innovative technology, rather than just as sources of unnecessary risk, the study reported.

However, in Canada, we lagged in this aspect, with only 59 per cent of companies seeing IT as part of their business philosophy and as a way of moving forward.

“If small businesses want to maximize their success, they need to embrace IT as a strategic tool with the potential to deliver a competitive advantage and really drive their business,” said Brian Burch, Symantec vice-president of global consumer and small business marketing, in a press release.

“There appears to be a positive correlation between protecting their information assets and achieving their business goals.”

Symantec also had some recommendations for SMBs seeking to emulate IT-confident businesses. It said SMBs should consider investing in IT solutions based on how much value they give to their businesses in the long run, rather than just looking at upfront costs.

SMBs might also treat IT as a way to avoid other costs – for example, they would see IT as a way to be more efficient if they considered using video conferencing and online collaboration tools as ways to connect employees, rather than paying for landline and travelling.

And to ensure companies protect their data, Symantec recommends they should “keep their IT houses in order.” Eighty-one per cent of the SMBs they surveyed use heavy security measures to keep hackers at bay, and they also prepare for disasters by backing up their data.

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