Damaged laptops will cost British business £2.073 billion in repair and data replacement costs in 2010, according to research commissioned by Panasonic and undertaken by IDC.

The research shows that 20% of laptops in business require repair each year with 14.2% of repairs coming from physical damage or accidents.

More than 14% of the 9 million or so laptops sold to British businesses between 2007 and 2009 will suffer from damage or accidents this year and with an average repair bill of £1,576 to cover parts, lost productivity and data, the overall cost to British business will be a staggering £2.073 billion.

“With a 14.2% chance of physical breakage per year, and a £1,576 repair and data replacement bill, IT Directors should realise that every laptop is carrying a potential hidden cost of £224 per year,” said Stephen Yeo, Panasonic Toughbook EMEA Marketing Director. “This means that over a 3-year life, a laptop has a hidden cost from breakage of £672 and this could be considerably higher for workers in areas like field service or sales.”

In the survey, 72% of respondents with damaged laptops reported that they suffered damaged keyboards, followed by 66% with damage to the display screen. Non-exposed parts most prone to damage included batteries and hard disk drives, both cited by more than 50% of respondents.

Human error and carelessness were responsible for the greatest sources of damage with 72% of respondents saying they dropped their laptops, 66% spilling liquid onto the devices and 55% reporting they fell off a desk or table. The departments most likely to damage their laptops were unsurprisingly field services, followed by office and administrative support and sales.

63% of respondents reported lost productivity as a result of their laptop damage or failure, while more than a third reported loss of important company data or information (37%) or lost and delayed sales (34%).

And with IDC predicting business laptops outselling commercial desktop computers by 2012, the analyst group recommended businesses look more closely at the type of laptops they buy.

“IDC believes that a sound notebook procurement strategy should incorporate clear metrics regarding product quality with an eye toward durability,” said David Daoud, IDC Research Director for Personal Computing. “Companies should look to procure notebooks that are built to withstand a variety of rigors, not just from dust, dirt, and extremes in temperature, but also from day-to-day bumps and spills. Companies should look for notebooks in which key components like keyboards and displays have been hardened, while insuring that the integrated parts are of ruggedised-grade quality.”