British firms lose money in digital paper chase

British firms are losing time and money from out-dated office practices and a struggle to handle and store electronic documents, according to research released today by 1&1 Internet Ltd,, the world’s largest web host.  From a study of 410 small firms, 37 per cent report money is lost from employees failing to share updated versions of documents.  53 per cent of companies are held back by poor archiving of emails and documents, and one third have document files saved on hardware that not all colleagues can access.  1 in 4 report wasting over £2000 a year from excessive printing of documents.  Some 25 per cent are losing efficiency from slow-running email accounts clogged with attachments.  Document handling skills are inconsistent across staff in 41 per cent of firms, and only 1 in 4 firms has a strategy for increasing their efficiency in handling electronic data.  Many businesses could benefit from reviewing how they draft, share and store their electronic documents.

1&1’s ‘UK Digital Office Audit'(1) finds that many UK firms are losing time and money from their poor handling and storage of electronic materials.  A key finding is the lack of facilities for collaborating on electronic documents between colleagues.  In total, two thirds of small companies believe that their efficiency is reduced by problems with document handling.  1 in 3 firms (37 per cent) believe that time and money is lost as a result of staff failing to share the latest versions of documents.  Significantly, 43 per cent do not have access to a file-sharing method that removes the need to email whole document files.  59 per cent of owners are unable to amend documents off the premises and save them where their colleagues can access them.  Staff skills around creating and sharing documents can also be a problem.  Some 29 per cent report that documents are frequently deleted in error, and 41 per cent of firms believe their success is hindered by inconsistent levels of staff skills in this area.

The majority of UK business owners now value email to be an essential communication channel.  However, the data shows many find their efficiency in handling emails is not optimal.  Over half of small businesses surveyed (53 per cent) do not currently archive old emails in a structured, easily-searchable form.  1 in 4 companies find their email accounts are regularly clogged with large attachments and face reduced performance when sending attachments around their team.  1 in 4 have worked with a ‘slow running’ email system before the capacity was expanded.  Furthermore, over half of firms (53 per cent), do not have access to shared calendars across their staff.

Oliver Mauss, CEO 1&1 Internet Ltd. said, “For many firms, out-dated or inefficient methods of handling and storing electronic materials can negatively impact performance, costs and so their bottom line.  Companies of all types can benefit from examining how their day-to-day use of office technology can be enhanced.  There are now intuitive web-based options for document creation, collaboration and storage that can increase mobility, raise efficiencies and benefit the environment as well as the balance sheet”.

The data suggests that filing and storing electronic files is an area where British companies can struggle.  1 in 4 firms believe that work is often repeated because documents from the past cannot be found quickly.  Some 29 per cent believe time is wasted as a result of staff creating and storing documents in differing ways.  For 1 in 5 firms, the server where files are stored is ‘disorganised’.  Only 1 in 4 small companies has a plan in place for growing their electronic storage capacity.

The study reveals that wasteful office printing remains a challenge for many companies.  Over half of owners (56 per cent) surveyed believe that their staff are wasting money with excessive print-outs.  1 in 4 firms estimate that they are currently wasting over £2000 per year.  One third of businesses report that paper is wasted everyday in the routine editing and re-drafting of documents.  Many British firms still rely on out-dated paper based filing and communication.  46 per cent of businesses still maintain paper copies of documents on file as back-ups.  Furthermore, 43 per cent routinely pay to post paper copies of documents to clients and partners, and 22 per cent of firms still post documents to their staff rather than emailing them.  The use of paper files leads to a shortage of physical office space for 27 per cent of companies.

Mauss adds, “Cloud applications for small businesses will be instrumental in the years ahead.  Solutions such as 1&1 Online Office can be a great way of speeding up work-flows and achieving better consistency and security for documents and files.  Furthermore, the latest web-based email platforms, such as MailXchange, can offer the scalability and performance needed by firms to improve email management and storage”.

1&1 Internet offers a wide range of solutions for small and medium sized businesses including Software-as-a-Service, instant business-website packages, business email solutions, domain names, shared and dedicated web hosting, eCommerce packages, Cloud servers and virtual and dedicated servers.  As the world’s largest web host, 1&1 is well placed to deliver a high quality service to business customers.  The company currently holds more than 9.5 million customer contracts worldwide and manages over 11 million domain names.

For more information on 1&1 hosting visit the website at

(1) 410 UK small companies surveyed by OpinionMatters via electronic feedback form

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