How technology is keeping medium-sized businesses on the path to growth

Colleagues meeting around a table
(Image credit: Virgin Media O2 Business)

It should come as no surprise that the rest of the year will continue to present difficult challenges for businesses to overcome. Layoffs, downsizing, investments drying up - these have all affected businesses large and small. The once-solid tech sector, which was one of seemingly endless growth and stability, is now struggling for the first time in years. It’s left medium-sized businesses, especially, wondering how they can once again forge a path to prosperity.

The Big Tech giants might be the poster children for innovation and all that’s possible in the industry, but it’s the medium-sized businesses that form the backbone of the UK economy. Medium-sized businesses employ more than 7.5 million people and turn over more than £1 trillion every year. To outsiders, their vital work that keeps everyone connected and able to enjoy everything the UK has to offer often goes under the radar, all while going toe-to-toe with the bigger firms and overachieving at every step.

It’s vital, therefore, that the medium-sized businesses that continue to drive the UK’s economy forward are supported during this period of uncertainty. If these businesses thrive, we all thrive.

Now, the leaders of medium-sized businesses have spoken out. Virgin Media O2 Business’ Medium businesses: Fuelling the UK’s economic engine report reveals that business leaders all share a single common belief. They believe investing in key areas of technology, such as connectivity and security, will be the fuel that keeps these businesses - those that form the UK’s economic engine - revving into high gear once again.

Connecting the paths to profitability

The dramatic changes to the way businesses operate over the last five years have meant that technology which enables hybrid work is no longer an afterthought. Now, reliable connectivity is a must.

As of 2022, Virgin Media O2 Business’ figures show that staff spend just 25% of their time in the office - a figure that would seem absurd in years gone by now would shock very few. Indeed, hybrid work is here to stay. This means lag-free virtual meetings and dependable access to cloud-powered tools like Microsoft 365, Google’s G Suite, and more are integral to the smooth running of modern medium businesses. So, why wait to invest in the crucial technology that’s guaranteed to keep employees productive?

Many of the UK’s medium business leaders believe that investing in connectivity should be the very top priority for business in 2023. In fact, a third (33%) say IT and connectivity was considered the foremost internal challenge facing medium businesses today.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of leaders say tech improves collaboration. They also believe it has a direct positive influence on revenues, productivity, and efficiency - a key component of high-performing teams operating in a challenging business climate.

Businesses that previously made investments in connectivity may simply have bought ‘add-on’ technologies to sit alongside and augment existing tools, according to analyst firm CCS Insight. Now, businesses need to take the next step and ensure their connectivity strategy supports wide-scale hybrid work for years to come.

Making room in the budget for dedicated internet access, for example, would be an ideal decision for medium businesses looking to maximise their potential for growth in the coming year. When staff are in the office, the network needs to be performing perfectly so staff can perform at their best too. Sharing a network is never ideal, and when critical business meetings are on the line - not to mention the vast number of staff trying to connect to the business’ server from myriad locations across the country - the investment in premium connectivity will never be a regrettable one.

“When it comes to helping partners on their digital transformation journey, there’s no room for a rule book,” says Davinder Sandher, head of small and medium business products at Virgin Media O2 Business.

“The only goal should be putting the customer first, and that comes from truly aligning yourself with their business outcomes.”

Ultimately, making the best decisions on connectivity today will set medium businesses up for success for years. Taking a calculated, proactive approach to what’s important frees time for the development of transformation strategies that will limit, or even eliminate, any future upheaval to the business, employees, and customer experiences too.

Security: Crucial for trusted businesses

The only thing arguably more precarious than the economy for businesses today is the cyber security landscape. The latest figures show cyber attacks on UK businesses surged 77% in 2022 - a staggering yet unsurprising revelation as the field of cyber crime remains ever-lucrative. It’s one thing having the connectivity and cloud technology that will help drive business outcomes, but it can be wielded properly when it’s secure.

Almost a quarter (24%) of medium-sized business leaders say cyber security is their biggest internal challenge, and data security came out on top in the Medium businesses: Fuelling the UK’s economic engine report as IT teams’ most prevalent challenge.

The cost of recovering from a cyber attack can be eye-watering, not to mention the looming threat of regulatory penalties for data loss. The average cost to recover from a ransomware attack in 2021, for example, was more than £1.6 million. Research from 2022 also found that consumers were forced to bear the cost of data breaches with 60% of businesses forced to raise prices as the average cost to recover from a data attack sat at more than £3.6 million.

Considering the cost of downtime should also not be overlooked. The impact will be felt by different types of businesses weathering different types of attacks, but the general consensus is that cyber attacks cost businesses thousands of pounds every minute that services are offline.

Securing a business from cyber attacks should be the utmost priority when deciding which security solutions to implement, but the security needs of a business are varied and will depend on the industry and the type of business itself. There are also countless different products vendors will try to sell businesses, making the purchasing decisions that much more difficult.

The most fortunate UK businesses will have the expertise in-house to decide how to approach security but for those that don’t - and there are many that fall under this bracket - engaging consultants to help devise a water-tight security strategy is an invaluable investment.

The road to success

Modern businesses need connectivity to power their operations in 2023. Choosing a reliable connectivity partner can help keep your employees working at their best and maintain the uptime of services on which your customers rely. But, it’s no use investing heavily in the underlying technology that can drive success if it’s open season on your network for hackers to bring the business to its knees.

There’s no doubt that challenges face medium businesses at every turn and the coming year will be a difficult one for many. However, the business leaders driving the backbone of the UK economy have spoken. They’re united in the belief that investing in technology is the key to unlocking the crucial value that will propel businesses to success in 2023, and future-proofing them for the brighter years that lie ahead.

Connor Jones
News and Analysis Editor

Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.