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Small businesses increasingly see new technology as a better way to communicate with international partners than traditional business trips - especially with budgets under strain thanks to the downturn.

One in four UK SMEs talk to international colleagues every working day and over half believe they, or a colleague, have gone on an unnecessary work trip abroad.

In order to avoid such trips 41 per cent of Britain's small businesses favour instant messaging instead of heading to Heathrow. In second place is Skype, which paid for the survey, with 40 per cent and next, with 34 per cent is teleconferencing.

Video conferencing is cited as a smart alternative by 28 per cent of small and medium businesses.

But when firms are asked about effectiveness of different types of communication good, old-fashioned email came out top with 65 per cent. Next was voice calls and video calls with 39 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.

Skype was cited by 29 per cent and Instant Messenger was considered most effective by only 17 per cent. Social networks got only nine per cent.

Redshift Research spoke to 1,200 people working at small and medium-sized businesses in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Russia. ®

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