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Report after report indicates the growing importance of wireless technology to small and medium businesses, which means the growing importance of wireless technology to the channel. Now you can throw in another proof point, a national study by AT&T that found that wireless technologies are becoming increasingly crucial to survival for today’s small businesses, who want to stay competitive and connected while gaining flexibility and time away from the office.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they could not survive — or it would be a major challenge to survive — without wireless technology. This is up dramatically from a similar 2007 survey in which only 42 percent said they would have difficulty surviving without wireless technologies.

The good news for the channel is nearly 80 percent of small businesses — 2 to 50 employees — reduced or maintained their overall technology budget from 2008 but did not cut back on their use of wireless technologies and expect to rely more on wireless technology over the next two years.

IDC’s Timothy Doherty, associate research analyst for SMB Mobility, says wireless technology is a critical business tool. "Reliance on wireless technology will only increase, as growing adoption of mobile business applications among small businesses drives the need for fast, reliable connectivity."

According to new IDC data, portable PCs will be the driver of a strong PC recovery, accounting for 70 percent share of both commercial and consumer PCs in 2012.

Last month Access Markets International (AMI) Partners reported SMBs will tentatively transition out of survival mode and focus on opportunities for business expansion. Technology that facilitates this shift will be much more of a priority in the coming year, including the increased use of collaborative tools and improved networking.

Microsoft’s 2009 SMB report anticipated that the number of SMB remote workers would increase, with nearly 60 percent of respondents — Small Business Specialists — expecting that the shift to more remote workers also will lead to bigger roles and more responsibilities for those individuals working remotely.

"Historically, we have seen that SMBs have responded to economic contractions by intensifying their use of IT, both to cut costs and to defend and enhance their customer relationships," said Steve Reynolds, managing director for AMI-Partners. "If SMBs respond to the current crisis as they have in the past, we can expect that a sizable number of smaller businesses will invest in IT now to lower operating costs, boost employee productivity and increase connectedness to customers so as to reap the benefits in the years ahead."

The AT&T study found that 74 percent of small businesses expect to depend on wireless technology even more two years from now. In addition, more than three times as many small businesses today strongly agree that wireless technology is key to keeping them competitive — 49 percent vs. 16 percent in 2007.

"In the current economic environment, small businesses are stretched more than ever before, so they’re demanding wireless technology solutions," said Ebrahim Keshavarz, vice president of Small Business Product Management at AT&T. "The good news is that they have more and better options today for staying connected – smartphones, Wi-Fi hotspots, laptop data cards or other technologies — whether they’re meeting with customers, partners or colleagues while away from the office or simply staying in touch with their place of business while on the road."