An independent study commissioned by Cupertino, Calif.-based software security firm Symantec found that small and medium-size businesses are susceptible to data loss and are aware of the importance of backup practices.
However, the survey also found SMBs are not employing adequate strategies to prevent data loss. "The story that came out of this study was that SMBs are following risky backup processes that can negatively impact their sales and customer relationships," said Anne O'Neill, Symantec's senior manager of product marketing. "SMBs are taking enough risks as it is-the last thing they need to do is take risks where they don't need to."
The survey, conducted by Rubicon Consulting, encompassed IT decision-makers at several hundred North American small businesses of fewer than 250 employees.
SMBs rate backup as their second-highest computing priority, after defense against viruses and other malware, and ahead of issues such as reducing costs and deploying new computers, the survey found. Although 92 percent of companies have deployed some form of data backup technology, 50 percent of those surveyed reported data loss. Of the companies that lost data, approximately a third have lost sales, 20 percent have lost customers and a quarter claim the data loss caused severe disruptions to the company.
Many companies do not back up their computers fully, O'Neill said. About a quarter of SMBs conduct no backup of their PCs, and another 13 percent do only informal, employee-directed backups where the frequency with which files are protected is done without corporate guidance. The study found the situation is similar for servers; about 20 percent of SMBs conduct no server backup.
"This is all leaving small businesses vulnerable," O'Neill says. "SMBs would benefit from a backup solution that allows for automation and centralized management of their backup practices." She says although data protection is a top-of-mind priority for SMB owners, factors like complexity and lack of time slow data security initiatives. O'Neill says that's why things like automation are so critical. "As companies grow, their environments become more complex and more difficult to manage," she says.
When backups do occur, most backup files are not stored remotely. O'Neill says more than half of all backup files on PCs and servers are stored in the same location as the originals, which leaves the company vulnerable to permanent data loss. Survey results show the causes of data loss for SMBs are diverse. Although natural disasters are often cited as a risk, onsite disasters are the primary contributing factor of data loss. Sixty-three percent of respondents cited hardware failure as a cause of data loss incidents, 27 percent from deliberate sabotage by employees and 27 percent from theft.
"That really underscores why an online backup service addresses some of these challenges," O'Neill says. "It allows an SMB owner to get online and get managed quickly, so they don't need to be worrying about upgrades or the system it's running on. Everything is taken care for them by the service."