A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Americans are online more than ever, with more than 20 percent of them reporting that they’re online all the time, and 73 percent saying they go online daily.

If you happen to be rearing a teenager, this is not news to you. But as it turns out, Pew writes, everyone is spending more time online, not just teenagers. 36 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds go online almost constantly, while 50 percent go online multiple times per day, writes research assistant Andrew Perrin. And the more education people have and the more affluent they are, the more time they spend online, he adds.

This is particularly true when people have more devices—something that’s increasingly likely (especially after the holidays).  “66 percent of Americans own at least two digital devices–smartphone, desktop or laptop computer, or tablet—and 36 own all three,” writes research analyst Monica Anderson of another Pew study. “The share of American adults who own a smartphone, computer and a tablet has doubled since 2012. At that time, only 15 percent of U.S. adults owned all three devices.” Which group is most likely to own multiple devices? Not teenagers: 30- to 49-year-olds, half of whom report owning all three, she writes.

Consequently, owners of multiple digital devices use the Internet more frequently, go online from multiple locations and are especially more likely than others to use the Internet while “on the go,” Anderson writes. “They are also more likely to have profiles on social networks and to manage their online privacy and digital reputations more diligently,” she warns.

Users of mobile devices, in particular, spend more time online, writes Perrin. “About three-quarters of Americans use a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device to tap into the Internet at least occasionally,” he writes. “Fully 87 percent of these users go online daily and 27 percent go online almost constantly.” In comparison, among Americans who don’t use a mobile device as their way of getting on the Internet, 65 percent go online daily and just 8 percent report that they go online almost constantly, he writes.

In fact, a growing percentage of people don’t have Internet at home, but use only their smartphones for Internet, a different Pew study finds. “13 percent of Americans are ‘smartphone-only’–up from 8 percent in 2013,” write John B. Horrigan and Maeve Duggan. This smartphone prevalence makes support for mobile devices even more important for programs and websites. In fact, these phone-only users report that they sometimes have trouble using websites, particularly to gain access to government services they might need, which might only be available through the Internet.

Moreover, it’s affluent, educated people—the type of people who are likely your employees, colleagues, or customers—who are likely to be online more often, research shows.

Why does this matter to you?

It matters because many IT organizations are predicated with the expectation that there are fairly well-defined periods of time when people aren’t using your computer and network systems And as people use the hardware and software around the clock, that gives you a smaller window to accomplish some pretty important tasks including:

  • Scheduling maintenance and system updates, whether for your staff or your customers, because it’s harder to find a time when people aren’t online
  • Performing backups, especially the kind that take a long time; you may need to move to “hot” or dynamic backups, if you haven’t already
  • Scheduling computing-intensive jobs that are typically performed during less busy times, because between around-the-clock users and global customers and workers, people could be online anytime
  • Implementing security access measures, because you can’t assume that someone using the system at an odd time is a hacker

Keep in mind, though, that the upside is that people are using the systems. In retrospect, finding times to do maintenance around them might not be so bad.

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