More than 1.7 million small businesses are online, exceeding the Government's target of 1.5 million by 2002, according to the Department of Trade & Industry's forthcoming International Benchmarking Study.

Figures reveal 81% of UK businesses are now online, compared to 63% last year and 90% of UK workers are employed by companies connected to the internet.

More than a quarter of UK companies trade online, of which nearly 500,000 are small and medium-sized businesses.