3 million UK SMEs at ‘high risk’ of losing data through bad backup practices

Almost three million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK are at ‘high risk' of losing valuable commercial information by failing to back up their data or storing electronic copies in the same location as the original information, according to a new study by Beaming, the business ISP.

Beaming’s study, which was conducted by the research firm Opinium, revealed that a quarter (24%) of businesses with fewer than 250 people - the equivalent of 1.3 million UK companies - do not duplicate their company data, storing information on users’ computers or a single server only.

Micro businesses are most likely to lose data to a single computer failure, with 24% of firms employing fewer than 10 people keeping only one copy of electronic information. Approximately one in six small (10-49 people) and medium (50-249 employees) were also 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.

Sonia Blizzard, Managing Director of Beaming, comments: “It is concerning that, despite the introduction of the GDPR, millions of UK companies are failing to take data backup and storage issues seriously. More than half of UK SMEs appear to be playing fast and loose with company data at the moment and they could get severely punished as a result. Businesses that fail to back up their data or that store copies in the same location as the originals are at high risk of losing valuable company information to an IT failure, cyber-attack or a single catastrophic event such as fire or flood.”

"Making daily copies and removing them from the office can be a solution, however, it adds to the risk of information being lost or stolen. Large businesses have shown the way, with increasing numbers backing up their data in real-time to a remote data centre or colocation facility. Small and medium-sized businesses need to follow that lead to ensure that they retain access to their data in the event of a failure, attack or natural disaster, and remain compliant with GDPR and data protection rules."

Less than a fifth of SMEs are observing the ‘30 mile data-recovery rule’

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.

Where is your data backed up?

% of organisations surveyed

Estimated number of UK organisations

All

Micro

1 - 9 people

Small

10-49 people

Medium

50-249 people

Large

250+ people

It isn’t, data is saved on individual computers or a single server in the office

24%

1,332,100

24%

1,299,724

13%

26,206

15%

5,397

10%

773

To a server or other storage device located in the same office

14%

801,252

14%

746,138

22%

46,589

20%

6,869

22%

1,657

To own IT equipment in a data centre or colocation facility

9%

493,733

8%

433,241

24%

49,501

24%

8,341

35%

2,651

 
To a third-party cloud service provider

13%

711,284

13%

698,000

6%

11,647

4%

1,472

2%

166

Source: Beaming & Opinium 2019

Methodology

In early 2019, Beaming engaged the research consultancy Opinium to survey the leaders of 504 UK businesses on their approaches to data backups and storage. The results of the survey were multiplied by business population figures from the UK Government Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to estimate the total number of businesses falling into each category.

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