3 million SMEs risk losing data with bad backup practices

by | Oct 18, 2019

A quarter of UK small and medium-sized businesses are failing to backup company data according to new research from business ISP Beaming. The survey by Opinium found that some of the most common mistakes included keeping backups in the same location as the original data, and just not backing up information at all.

24% of firms with fewer than 10 people kept only one copy of electronic information which meant they are at high risk if that one computer fails. Approximately one in six small (10-49 people) businesses were guilty of this.

One in three (29%) SMEs – some 1.7 million firms nationwide – admitted to keeping their backups on servers or storage devices located in the same facility as the original information. 14% of SMEs backup data to an external hard drive that is removed from the office each evening.

Beaming’s research revealed that just 17% of SMEs currently backup their data to facilities located 30 miles or more from their main business premises, the distance recommended by business continuity experts to limit the IT impact of natural disasters. Almost half of SMEs adhering to the ‘30 mile data-recovery rule’ are using third party cloud services and do not know where their data is held.

The study also revealed a small increase in the number of SMEs backing up company data to their own IT equipment located in a remote data centre or colocation facility. The proportion of SMEs using this approach increased slightly from 7% to 9% between 2018 and 2019, driven by increasing demand from 10 – 49 person firms.

Sonia Blizzard, Managing Director of Beaming spoke to SME Technology Guide about the research, and what best practice for small businesses means.

Why do you think we have gotten to this stage?

“I think that a lot of smaller businesses are so busy dealing with the day-to-day business operations and delivering for customers that thinking about what would happen if they were to lose access to their IT systems and the data on them gets pushed down their list of priorities. Many businesses don’t think about this until they’ve lost data and are unable to serve customers.”

Is there a particular type of data that businesses should prioritize backing up?

“Yes, businesses should back up the information they need to operate as normal,  including accounting files, emails, customer records, and other documents that they’ve created or modified. Think about the information you have on your systems that you couldn’t do without and back that up first.”

Who should SMEs be turning to for data backup?

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Businesses must back up their data in a way that works for them and keep copies apart from the originals. Copying data to an external hard drive and removing it from the premises can be cost-effective, but it is also time-consuming, and it creates the risk of those devices being lost or stolen while out of the office.”

“For businesses that have carefully considered which data they are happy to entrust to the cloud, a public cloud storage service from the likes of Microsoft or Google may be appropriate. While this tends to be the least expensive option when it comes to backing data up remotely, it can be difficult to keep track of where and how securely your data is being stored. The number of businesses taking this option has fallen over the last year across all company sizes.

“We’d recommend that SMEs consider using a colocation facility, which allows them to back up their data remotely and in real-time to a secure, dedicated server.  This is an increasingly popular option for smaller businesses because they then know precisely where and how their data is being held.”

What are the cost implications of data backup for SMEs? How should they be balancing upfront investment with the potential operational cost of data loss? 

“The cost of data backup tends to grow in line with the size of the business and the amount of data they need to replicate and store offsite. If you are thinking of cutting costs here, consider just for a second the implications for your business if you lost access to your billing systems, customer information or any of the day-to-day spreadsheets and business documents you need to stay fully operational.”

What are your top three tips for best practice data backup?

1.     Whichever means of backup a company uses they must first consider which data is worth duplicating. That means making multiple copies of the information your business needs to function correctly and storing it in multiple locations. It probably doesn’t mean incurring the extra cost associated with backing-up employees’ personal photographs and iTunes libraries too.

2.     The introduction of GDPR has highlighted the need for secure and resilient data storage to mitigate the risk of significant data loss. We’d encourage businesses to think seriously about private cloud or colocation services when it comes to storing highly sensitive data or mission-critical applications. Access to these should only be through the most secure forms of connectivity.

3.     Data should be encrypted where it is stored and while it is in motion. Use HTTPS with secure encryption when accessing remote data and invest in Virtual Private Networks that use dedicated connections and specialist protocols to secure data between sites.

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