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Small businesses lead hi-tech boom

By Simon Hooper for CNN

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LONDON, England -- Small businesses are forging ahead in the adoption of new technologies and the commercial use of the Internet, according to a survey by NatWest Bank.

Computers are essential to the work of 92 percent of British small businesses, with half of those networking their computers together in a manner more usually associated with the IT practices of larger companies.

And now small businesses seem to have the edge over larger ones when it comes to embracing the latest technological advances.

Nearly a fifth of small businesses have already adopted wireless networks, which allow computers to be linked together and to the internet without the need for wires, and that number is set to double before 2005.

Almost two thirds of small companies use a Web site to drive business and 82 percent make use of Internet email.

Online payment

A fifth of small retailers offer online payment services, with another 11 percent of companies planning to give their customers the chance to shop via the Internet before the end of the year.

Firms in wholesale (93 percent), manufacturing (61 percent) and business services (90 percent) were most likely to make use of the Internet, while those in retail (62 percent) and agriculture (63 percent) were least likely.

Jeremy Rudge, head of NatWest E-Commerce, believes new technology will become even more important in facilitating the day-to-day running of small businesses as well as helping them to publicize and market their work.

"Using technology can definitely give your small business a competitive advantage," said Rudge.

"Having a Web site opens your doors to thousands of customers, so it makes sense to provide them with an easy way to pay for your products online, rather than waiting for a check to arrive in the post.

"It is now easier and cheaper than ever to setup a secure online payment service."


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