Technology Downtime: The Impact on Your Small Business

Technology exists to help us leverage our resources and do more with less. In fact, one of the best things about technology is how it helps ushandle more business in less time (that thing that we can’t get back and always need more of). At first, new technology means a greater time commitment because there’s a learning curve.  But the cost of getting to know the latest BlackBerry upgrade, accounting software, or high-end copier eventually pays off.

But what happens when our technology breaks?  And how many of us are dealing with technology frustrations?  In the annual Brother Small Business Survey (PDF), 501 small business owners were asked a series of quick questions about their companies (Brother Survey Demographic Report PDF). This tech-related inquiry, in particular, caught my attention:

“In the past year, how often did productivity suffer due to office technology not working properly?”

Brother Small Business Survey

Only 3 percent said that technology issues affected their productivity all the time. However, according to Brother, the majority – more than three-quarters of small businesses surveyed – indicated that they experienced at least some type of tech-related frustrations in the last year.

Me too.

In this past year, I have experienced some serious technology downtime of my own including:

  • primary computer crashing in the middle of a deadline,
  • copiers dying in the middle of a deadline, and
  • glitchy cloud-computing backups and synchronizations that overrwrote my latest information.

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” and getting around Murphy’s Law requires a little planning on our part.  The biggest time savers during my technology downtime were the automatic backups to the backup, the time buffers that were added to the deadlines, and the fact that I used equipment with excellent repair policies and was able to lease an affordable (temporary) replacement.

John Wandishin, Vice President of Marketing, Brother International, has it right. “When running a small business, time is the ultimate commodity,” Wandishin said in announcing the survey results. “Small business owners are looking for reliable equipment and services that help [save time].” Ultimately, we want to spend more time addressing the core of our business, not fixing our equipment.

But sometimes, stuff happens. As small business owners we have to do all the planning that we can to prepare for those moments – and move through them quickly to get back to our customers.

How do you plan to prevent technology downtime, and what do you do when downtime happens anyway?

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Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

9 Reactions
  1. Technology sure is a blessing but you are right; when it doesn’t work a lot of time can be wasted. I always have a list handy of phones calls I can make to clients so if something happens and I can’t use technology or equipment for some reason I am not wasting time. Sales calls are the heart of my business but technology helps me keep it all straight.

  2. Wait. You mean that nearly one quarter of small businesses surveyed HAVEN’T experienced tech-related frustration in the last year? I want to meet those people (provided they aren’t Amish).

  3. Wow, technology downtime is really a pain in the neck when it happens, especially when your business is heavily computer and internet dependent! I do professional SEO services and these problems are the worst!

    I’ve had a good share(and I mean a lot!)of technology downtime so I’m always prepared with backups such as good old phones and notepads.

    In case of computer crashes, it is very helpful to invest in a laptop or a notebook. And most importantly, always always save your files in a web-based storage system. I highly recommend Dropbox; I always use it for my SEO files.

  4. Eddie E Winther (WintherConsult)

    Interesting article Jamillah, thanks. I’ve just landed in Sweden after being away for seven years to experience that businesses in Sweden is paying a stunning SEK 12-13 billion yearly on technology issues…(wow, what a great business opportunity…I think)!

    How I plan to prevent technology downtime? I don’t – I always plan on 100% technology uptime, doing so by making sure the right technology combined with right set-up by use of right resources based upon needs (not trends) and by monitoring what will be rather than what is. Sounds simple? It is 🙂

  5. Martin Lindeskog


    What is the solution to downtime? Backup the stuff in the cloud? I have had several computer failures during the years. Someday I will learn… 😉

  6. I remember a few weeks back when Amazon had a major glitch and I can’t access most of the Twitter analytics tool I’m using to check out my users’ stats.. and yes, it was quite a frustrating experience. To answer your question, I always keep a double back up– and that means saving important files on the cloud to my hard disk– and having a backup of that disk as well. Better be safe than sorry, I guess. It’s quite alarming how our lives have become dependent on technology that I can’t imagine what will happen if there was a major technical or power failure and we suddenly lose connections to the online world, like some story in a lost episode of Twilight Zone.

  7. This is such an important consideration for small businesses. Here at Symantec, our 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey found that technology downtime costs SMBs several thousands of dollars – the median cost came to $12,500 per day. This doesn’t include the effect downtime can have on their customers, costing them an average of $10,000 per day. In fact, 54 percent of SMB customer survey respondents said they switched SMB vendors because of unreliable computing systems. Prevent these significant costs by using security and backup solutions, educating employees and testing your disaster preparedness plan frequently.