Big Gaps in Small-Business Data Backup Plans: Carbonite

Bound by budget constraints, small businesses are often employing risky methods to back up their data, a survey finds.

Small businesses are using a variety of technologies to back up data, including some antiquated methods that leave the backup process incomplete and susceptible to information loss, according to a study from Carbonite Inc. (NASDAQ: CARB), a provider of online backup solutions for consumers and small and midsize businesses (SMBs). The survey revealed some surprising responses from small-business owners on how they prepare for a data disaster.

The data showed many businesses are using a combination of technologies, including external hard drives, USB/flash drives and CDs/DVDs, that can make backing up even more complex and compound the risk for data loss. Despite known risks, small businesses continue to choose a range of risky and unreliable technologies: 50 percent use external hard drives, yet 20 percent backing up their business data indicated they started to do so because of a hard-drive failure.

The survey found 42 percent use USB/flash drives, primarily because it is perceived as easy, yet only 6 percent believe USB/flash drives are actually reliable. More than one-third use CD/DVD drives to back up data, even though 62 percent feel they are inconvenient or risky.

"Although many small businesses are backing up their data, they're using antiquated methods, such as USB/flash drives or CDs, which leave huge gaps and vulnerabilities. These simple solutions may be relatively easy to set up, but they require ongoing supervision to ensure they are performing, and can distract from other work," said Peter Lamson, senior vice president of small business for Carbonite.

"Small businesses are creating new, priceless data every minute of every day, and they can't afford to be unprotected. Low cost, automated and easy-to-use methods are now mainstream, so there's no reason for small businesses to be spending time manually managing backups, when they could spend that valuable time focused on their business instead," Lamson continued.

Small businesses stay competitive by keeping costs down, but when it comes to backup, cutting costs may mean using products with limited coverage and leaving SMB data at risk, Carbonite research found. Twenty-one percent of small businesses using online backup were using a free product. Since free online backup services are typically capped at 2GB, small businesses using these methods could be vulnerable to data loss. Some small businesses already recognize the limitations of USB/flash drives, which are often considered low-cost. Twenty-four percent of small businesses using this method noted USB/flash drives do not work well for backup specifically because they have limited storage space.

"Our study also found that one in five small businesses don't know how much data they have, so it's unlikely they have the right solutions in place. Backup solutions like USBs or free solutions may not back up all of a business' data, so a business must ration its backup or choose what they want to safeguard," said Lamson. "Small businesses need to ensure they use a backup solution that has the capacity and capability to keep all of its data protected."

When it comes to the time invested in and the tech support used for backing up, 22 percent of small businesses surveyed even pay for outside tech assistance. Notably, 40 percent of those who manage the process in-house spend more than an hour per week backing up their company data, with 6 percent spending more than five hours per week. Carbonite research shows only 24 percent have backed up their data in the past day, and 24 percent haven't backed up their data within the past week.