Forget the idea of keeping up with the latest technologies, IT managers at small and mid-sized businesses spend more time firefighting than they do planning new systems.

That’s according to a new survey from Vanson Bourne, sponsored by IT services company Connect, which found that 37 percent of UK SMEs said that fighting regular IT hassles was their biggest headache, with a further 32 percent choosing security as the biggest problem.

“When you get to the larger firm,” said Connect CEO Mark McGregor, “you do find that IT managers there do spend a bit of time worrying about new technologies and planning strategically, but it’s certainly true that the smaller the company the more time they spend fire-fighting.”

McGregor said that the top problems faced by organisations were: general admin issues (logins and passwords), email problems, desktop operating system failure and servers going down, although, he pointed out, problems with an organisation’s ISP could affect every user and take all day to put right.

There were differences between the smallest companies and larger organisations, said McGregor. “The larger companies saw staff IT problems as a problem. That could reflect the fact that in smaller companies, the IT man has to solve everything and might not have large staff numbers, while in a large a organisation, he might have to be in charge of IT training as well as handling IT products themelves.

McGregor said the survey gave an accurate position as to what was happening in IT departments. “There’s a lot of talk in the IT media about new products, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that most techie staff are more interested in keeping their systems up and running."