Businesses are beginning to invest in technology, with 25% of European businesses planning to spend on emerging technologies by 2020. And yet, despite spending big on artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, automation and blockchain technology, this is doing little to alleviate age-old problems or counteract new ones.

According to a recent study commissioned by managed IT support provider Q2Q, over half of small to medium-sized business owners still count internet issues among the biggest problems that their companies face as 2019 approaches.

“Hearing that internet issues are still responsible for over half of SMEs’ IT-related headaches is simply inexcusable in this day-and-age. There are plenty of things which can cause a slow connection, but understanding the root cause is key to getting the most out of our systems, employees and the working day,” said Andrew Stellakis, managing director at Q2Q.

It was previously estimated that internet problems cost the UK economy approximately £35bn every year. The average worker wastes approximately 5.6% of their time dealing with IT problems, which equates to around 2.5 hours a week or one day every month.

Thankfully, the issues caused by outdated IT infrastructure could be banished in 2019, with Europe-based businesses reportedly planning to spend more than a third of their budgets on hardware purchases.

Dealing with GDPR

Some 36% of respondents said that cybersecurity was the biggest cause of stress following a year of large-scale cyberattacks in which internet users woke up to the issue of poor data handling. A recent study found that 93% of consumers blame businesses when a breach of their personal data occurs, with 70% claiming that they would stop completing transactions with a company in the wake of a breach.

However, as well as dealing with angry customers should this data be compromised, businesses now also face damaging punishment from regulators, following a year in which governments really started to crackdown on poor data handling practices.

If the data of European users is exposed, firms face fines of up to €20m or 4% of global annual turnover. And yet, in August it was found that 28% of organisations were still unable to comply with GDPR. It will come as little surprise then that 41% of SME owners said that GDPR compliance was still a cause of confusion within the workplace.

“As an accredited virtual data protection officer, it’s also rather worrying that – six months on – 40% of SME’s are still unsure about the rules and regulations surrounding GDPR,” Stellakis said. “Over the past 18 months, I’ve spent a lot of time working closely with SMEs to ensure they are fully compliant – and it isn’t as daunting as it may seem.

“The appointment of a dedicated IT provider or GDPR officer – either in-house or externally – is often left until something goes wrong. But, as the news has been filled with reports of cyber-attacks and GDPR fines over the past few months, it should be all SME owners’ New Year’s resolution to ensure their company – and reputation – remains intact in 2019.”