A new survey has highlighted the risks posed to smaller businesses by the sheer effort involved in rolling out security patches, with the majority of respondents admitting they don't install patches in a timely fashion.

In a survey of 449 IT managers from UK-based small and medium-sized businesses, Vanson Bourne found that 59 percent of companies don't keep up to date with patches because of the time needed for testing and deployment. The survey was commissioned by Inty, which provides managed Internet and e-mail services.

The survey also found that a similar proportion of SMBs - 61 percent - are paying for software licences they aren't using, because of rigid per-seat licensing schemes that don't allow companies to alter the amount they pay if employees leave the business or devices break down, according to Inty.

The company said smaller companies' typically limited IT staff is exposing them to security problems and unnecessary licensing fees. "They are throwing money down the drain, and today’s SMB simply cannot afford to do that," said Inty founder Mark Herbert.

One solution might be switching to an application service provider (ASP) - at least, Inty would like us to believe so - but here smaller companies appear to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. While most (77 percent) would consider switching to an ASP if it meant less trouble for them nearly half (46 percent) said they had been put off the ASP model because of the risk of not having reliable access to critical business applications.

Such problems continue to hound even well-established Internet-based services. In one high profile example, CRM company Salesforce.com said earlier this month it would deal with repeated service outages by establishing a website that the public can access to get information about service performance.

The announcement followed several service disruptions over the past several months affecting the company's 350,000 subscribers. The outages have vexed customers and have given the company a considerable amount of unwanted media attention.