Small businesses with fewer than 50 staff have bought a lot of spam filtering tools in the last three months, a survey has suggested.
The latest quarterly broadband barometer -- by ISP Pacific Internet -- suggests 40 percent of Australian small businesses now use a spam filter, up from 30 percent in June.
“Use of spam filters is projected to increase faster than any other internet technology, with a further nine percent indicating their intention to adopt [one] within the next three months,” the survey stated.
The October broadband barometer -- put together by ACNeilsen.consult and sponsored by ISP Pacific Internet -- surveyed 617 businesses in metropolitan and regional areas with fewer than 50 staff. It defined broadband as an internet access technology offering speeds of more than 256 Kb/s.
Dennis Muscat, managing director at Pacific Internet in Australia, said another stand-out finding this quarter was that the number of small businesses adopting telecommuting or other remote-access work practices had grown from 17 percent to 19 percent of survey respondents, particularly in the cities.
“We have seen telecommuting move up quite a bit and seen spam filtering become much more top-of-the-mind for business,” he said.
He said most of the findings were consistent with the results of the first broadband barometer, in June.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 staff continued to adopt broadband, particularly xDSL, in increasing numbers. Some 236,000 – or 45 percent – of small businesses now had broadband and 28 percent of that number had xDSL, the survey suggested.
“We have an increase in broadband growth over the last quarter of about four percent,” Muscat said.
ADSL was the most popular xDSL choice but cable had kept growing and now represented 16 percent of small business broadband connections, he added.
Further, 47 percent of survey respondents with narrowband said they intended to upgrade to broadband in 12 months.
“Although things you intend to do don't always get done, I think we can still say there's a lot of interest there and we have been able to measure an intention to move to broadband,” Muscat added.
However, the survey confirmed a widening digital divide between city and country, he said.
“Something like 53 percent of [smaller] businesses with broadband are in metropolitan areas and 20 percent in rural areas,” he said.
Also, small businesses still showed less interest in video-conferencing, wireless hotspots and VoIP than in security or other broadband-related issues and applications, the survey suggested.
Muscat said the latest survey also confirmed 42 percent of small organisations that had bought broadband were buying residential broadband packages instead of business-grade offerings, despite fears about security. Business-grade packages often offered tighter security.
Small businesses probably didn't think the business-grade packages available offered good value for money, he said.
Muscat said the findings suggested that the industry should improve its marketing and offerings for small businesses, which earned 40 percent of Australia's GDP.
He called for Federal Government subsidies encouraging bandwidth enhancement, particularly for the bush. Policy-makers and businesspeople must work to tap regional market potential for broadband, he believed.
“There's an issue for policy-makers to get the infrastructure out there,” Muscat said.
Even though residential broadband customers don't offer a direct return on investment for the government, industry and education would suffer and local politicians lose votes from any perceived digital divide, argued Muscat.
Pacific Internet's first broadband barometer suggested that around 40 percent – or 206,000 – of the high-speed connections sold in Australia were sold to small businesses by June this year, up from 20 percent in June 2002.
Overall internet penetration in small businesses was near saturation, with 77 percent or 505,000 companies connected by June this year, Muscat said then. A third Pacific Internet broadband barometer would appear next quarter, when the program would be reviewed, he said.