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Survey says SMBs need better backup policies

Most SMBs know they need to back up, but they don't match practices to risks, according to a recent survey.

According to a survey conducted by Rubicon Consulting Inc. and funded by Symantec, half of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have lost important business data, and nearly a third of those companies lost sales or customers as a direct result of the lost data.

The survey revealed that 25% of the companies said lost data caused severe disruptions in company operations. Only about a quarter of the 318 SMBs surveyed said they were able to recover the lost data all the time, and less than 70% said they are able to recover lost data 80% of the time.

The survey also showed that SMBs aware of the need for backup is growing. The surveyed companies ranked "ensuring that its data is backed up" as its No. 2 computing priority behind "protecting computing systems from malware," and half of those surveyed said they are "very concerned" that their companies could lose important business data.

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Rubicon Consulting principal Michael Mace said he was surprised that backup was such a high priority for SMBs in the survey. "I didn't expect the rate of backup to be as high as it is," Mace said. "Only 8% of the surveyed companies weren't doing any sort of backup. Since we are talking about smaller companies, I thought we'd find a larger number of them who don't bother to do backups at all."

Despite a high awareness, SMB backup practices aren't consistent. Approximately 28% of the SMBs do nothing to back up PCs, 43% do little and 13% allow employees to back up their own PCs. Companies with servers do a little better, but about only 33% of the companies surveyed do automatic server backups.

Even those companies that do PC and server backups don't necessarily perform backups as much as they should. The survey found that about 67% of the companies that reported they back up PCs don't do it daily, and only half of the companies that back up servers do it daily.

"There's a number of different ways the companies are losing data, and the companies' backup methodologies didn't necessarily match the ways in which they could lose data," Mace said. Hardware failure (63%) and accidental erasure (50%) were the two highest ranked methods of losing data. Over 25% of the companies lost data to criminal activities, including malware, stolen equipment and purposeful erasure.

Most companies store their backups in the same location as the computing systems, putting the business data at high risk for loss. Mace said the survey shows that companies aren't addressing "the full range" of ways they can lose data.

"Just because you're running an occasional backup doesn't mean you're secure," he said. "Think about how frequently backups are done, how safe the backups are, all of the ways in which you could lose data and what the impact of lost data would be on the company."

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