Small and medium-sized businesses are catching up with enterprises when it comes to the adoption of mobile data technology, research reveals.
According to a new Yankee Group survey, 60 percent of small business owners have already implemented, or are planning on deploying, mobile working technology.
This reflects a "significant jump" in wireless adoption plans when compared to a 2005 survey asking the same question, in which 54 percent of respondents said they would not implement a wireless program.
The survey highlights the growing predominance of the mobile networks for accessing data.
Not to be confused with Wi-Fi, or "hot spot," technology, cellular networks are provided by wireless phone companies and allow small business owners to wirelessly use mobile handsets and PDAs to access e-mail and files.
"Constant connectivity is crucial for small and medium-sized companies, especially in today's fast-paced environment," said Russell Morgan, president of the non-profit Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance.
"Data communications provided through cellular networks gives business owners the ability to be in touch anywhere they have cellphone coverage and anytime that their mobile phones are on.
"But the many device, network and service options mean that small business owners need to become more savvy about the capabilities they are looking for and the best ways to implement them for full integration with the rest of their technology."
The Yankee Group report shows that having access to e-mail continues to be the top reason why small companies use wireless systems in the first place, but such firms have a more aggressive view than large corporations about how to expand their systems into other business applications.
Small and medium-sized businesses are more than twice as likely to see wireless services playing a significant role in remote systems administration in the future, for example making wireless support an important component of any managed services solution that small and medium businesses might be considering.
"This rapid adoption rate reflects how small business managers view wireless handset technology and mobile data services adoption as critical to gaining a competitive edge," said Yankee Group analyst Gary Chen.
"Small business decision makers believe they will have an increased reliance on wireless connectivity in the near future, giving them better customer satisfaction and higher employee productivity."
When choosing a device to access the network, the conventional mobile phone with data capabilities is currently the overwhelming choice of small and medium-sized businesses, according to the survey.
"In the battle between sleek cellphones and bulkier PDAs, the wireless phone continues to win with small companies," said Morgan.
"When faced with a choice, people would rather carry a mobile phone with data capabilities than make phone calls from a handheld computer."