Internet downtime cost UK businesses over £3.7 billion last year

Internet connection concept image showing flashing data flows through a street at night.
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UK businesses lost more than 50 million hours in internet downtime last year, resulting in over £3.7 billion in losses.

According to a report from specialist business ISP Beaming, there were 8.8 million internet failures over the year. And while that marks a decrease on the 60 million hours lost to downtime in 2018, costs have risen fourfold from £742 million.

"Greater use of faster, stronger, more resilient forms of connectivity has helped reduce downtime, whilst downtime has become much more costly," said Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming.

"Good planning, higher capacity services and expert support are vital now to reduce the risk of internet failure and the associated financial fallout."

Businesses are more dependent on internet access than they were in 2018, and four-in-ten now say they'd lose money in an eight-hour internet outage, up from a third in 2018.

SMBs bore the brunt of internet disruptions in 2023, with an average of three to four failures and 19 hours of downtime each. Those working a standard eight-hour day and five-day week, Beaming said, lose more than two working days a year to downtime, equivalent to around 1% of their productive time.

The hospitality, IT, and manufacturing sectors experienced the highest levels of internet downtime, and also saw the biggest financial impact. On average, hospitality businesses lost 27 hours to downtime in 2023, while companies in the IT industry lost around £555 million to connectivity failures.

"The adoption of digital technologies has been a lifeline for business survival and a driver for increased prosperity in recent years, but this has come with a heightened dependence on connectivity," Blizzard said.

"Companies are demanding more of their connectivity than ever before, and those relying on e-commerce, automation and public cloud services then incur the highest costs due to internet downtime."

Recent research from Uswitch found that Southampton was hit the hardest by broadband outages between summer 2022 and summer 2023, with an average of 63.2 hours online lost over the year. Londoners, meanwhile, lost just 13.5 hours.

"Despite major price increases earlier in the year, if anything, the issue of broadband outages appears to be getting worse," said Uswitch broadband expert Ernest Doku.

In a survey last year, altnet provider Neos Networks found that one in every five UK businesses is receiving inadequate broadband speeds. More than one-in-ten said this was affecting their profitability, and almost all said it affected their productivity, staff retention, or client collaboration.

Last December, the government issued an update on its £5 billion Project Gigabit program to deliver high-speed broadband to the whole of the UK. It said that eight-in-ten UK premises can now access a gigabit-capable network, with Ofcom forecasting the figure to hit around 90% by May 2025.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.