Mobile Apps Key to Small Business Operations, says AT&T

Hot off the presses, a new survey from AT&T shows that small businesses (defined here as organizations with between 2-50 employees) are increasingly dependent on mobile technology in their day-to-day operations. According to the survey, 75% of small businesses now use mobile apps for their business “to save time, increase productivity and reduce costs.” Nearly half (49%) of all small businesses are now utilizing GPS/Navigation and mapping apps, making it the largest category of mobile applications currently being used.

What Other Kinds of Apps?

A variety of other apps are making inroads into small businesses as well.  The top app categories include social media marketing, document management, location-based services, time management, expense tracking software, and programs that accept credit or debit card payments in the field.

State of Social Media & Facebook

While social media apps are being utilized by a smaller proportion of companies (26%), a significant number (41%) are now using a Facebook page to promote themselves.

Small businesses feel that Facebook provides an easy and affordable way to promote their businesses., and many feel that it is the best way to communicate with their customers. Certainly, Facebook offers several unique options for businesses, from the low cost of set-up (free), to the ability to directly interact with individual customers, something that websites simply cannot offer. As well, a full 37% have noticed an increase in traffic to their websites, and 29% an increase in phone calls thanks to their Facebook pages.

Post continues after the jump.

The Cloud Lags Behind

While one third (33%) of businesses are currently using cloud-based solutions in their operations, almost as many (32%) didn’t know what cloud-based services are. Despite the buzz in the blogosphere this past year, and the immense value of the services they often provide (for instance, I am utterly dependent on cloud-based storage service Dropbox for sharing and backing up my files), businesses haven’t yet adopted the cloud in quite the same way they’ve embraced apps. Although cloud services provide access to technology without the (often, huge) costs of implementing and managing them, AT&T’s survey shows that only 17% of small businesses could not survive without cloud-based services.

Data Backup

I’ve long regarded proper data backup policies as the cornerstone of any successfully run operation, be it a single entrepreneur with a laptop and a vision, to a small organization utterly dependent on technology to run their business. Thankfully, a full 90% of small businesses reported that they are backing up their data. Most surprising, however, is the fact that one in four (25%) small business are now utilizing off-site, online backup solutions, up from 16% last year. This represents a huge shift both in terms of how data is being handled internally, but the increasing amount of trust being placed in online backup solutions. This has implications for the cloud as well—as companies learn to trust cloud-based storage for their data, they may be more inclined to invest in other cloud-based solutions.

This is just a brief summary of the data, but the facts are in: mobile apps and devices are already making a huge impact on small businesses, and are showing no signs of slowing down.  But don’t take my word for it: be sure to read the full report and draw your own conclusions.