Only 28 percent of small-business owners completely understand the concept of cloud computing, while 42 percent of respondents said they are not using cloud computing at all and 35 percent said they were using it only for data storage, according to the latest “Brother Small-Business Survey,” from Brother International, which examined the role of technology in small business.

Small-business owners also noted using the cloud for document management (21 percent) as well as business applications like CRM and accounting and human resources (17 percent).

The study, conducted by Wakefield Research and based on a poll of 500 owners of U.S. businesses with less than 100 employees, revealed a surprising 75 percent of these small-business owners felt that a crashed computer was more disruptive than a sick employee, and 75 percent said that a tech malfunction had negatively affected their business through a missed deadline or opportunity.

“This year’s small-business survey found that technology is just as important as a healthy workforce,” John Wandishin, vice president of marketing for Brother, said in a statement. “The results emphasize the importance of delivering reliable and easy-to-use products to promote a productive working environment.”

When asked about business investments, 51 percent of small-business owners said that they prioritize technology tool-related capital investments, such as new software, mobile apps and cloud computing services. Machinery-related (21 percent) and facility-related investments (20 percent) were other areas of priority.

The results indicated that while technology plays a vital role in terms of office productivity, 66 percent of small-business owners said they are frequently overwhelmed by the amount of technology available to help them run their businesses, and 86 percent additionally noted that in the past year, office productivity suffered due to technology not working properly. Nearly a third (31 percent) of respondents went so far as to say that they would give up a week’s worth of vacation to ensure tech malfunctions never happened in their business again.

The survey measured a slight uptick (48 percent, compared with 44 percent in 2012) in small-business owners feeling the need to stockpile cash to help guarantee that they could survive any economic downturn. However, 52 percent said they believe that investing in their businesses can give them an advantage over competitors.

While stress levels among small-business owners remained high in general (58 percent in 2013, versus 55 percent in 2012), survey results indicated “extreme stress” seemed to be down. The percentage of those claiming their stress levels are at their highest ever (13 percent) is down almost half from last year (24 percent).  However, 41 percent of small-business owners felt that 2012 turned out worse than expected.

Source: eWeek