Half of UK SMEs have lost vital data over the past five years


Almost half (48%) of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK have lost or lost access to company or customer data over the past five years, according to research from Beaming, a specialist internet service provider for businesses.

Businesses with between 10 and 250 people have borne the brunt of data loss, which has cost UK companies more than £5.3 billion since 2019. These costs include financial penalties, expenses associated with recovering data and replacing people or assets involved in incidents, and lost productivity during periods in which the business could not operate as usual.

59% of finance businesses, which includes financial services providers and accountants, admitted to losing data between 2019 and 2023, more than any other sector. The most expensive data loss incidents were experienced in the manufacturing sector, where the median cost of incidents exceeded £60,000.

Beaming’s research was published in a new report – Data Backup & Business Continuity: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – ahead of World Backup Day, 31 March 2024, a day for people to learn about the increasing role of data and the importance of regular backups. The report includes expert guidance to help businesses improve their backup and business continuity practices.

Sonia Blizzard, Managing Director of Beaming, said: “Data loss occurs for all sorts of reasons, including hardware theft or failure, cybercrime, data management errors and events such as fire or floods. A robust data backup strategy is fundamental to risk management and business continuity planning. It safeguards critical data, supports recovery efforts, and helps maintain a business’s resilience and reputation in the face of these challenges.”

“The good news is that more businesses are making more effort to back up their data than five years ago. The bad news is that most haven’t gone far enough, especially given the growing importance of data to businesses today.”

Good, bad and ugly data backup practices

Beaming’s research, which was conducted by Censuswide, reveals that up to a quarter of businesses make no effort to back up company data. 12% keep one copy of data only, either on individual users’ computers or a single server in the office. A similar proportion of leaders said they were unaware of any backup plans in their businesses.

Just one in four UK businesses today consistently pursue good backup practices. 22% of companies systematically back up data to a specialist offsite facility or provider, with full knowledge and control of backup procedures and where their data is held. 34% maintain an air-gapped data backup physically isolated from the internet and 29% encrypt data as it travels between their primary data centre or business site and backup location.

Around half of businesses engage in bad backup practices, making copies of data in a flawed way. 53% do not encrypt their data. 31% make backups, but not frequently enough, and 17% keep copies in the exact location as the original data, leaving them vulnerable to events such as fire or flood. 25% backup manually to external hard drives or discs, a process that can be inconsistent and prone to human error.

28% of businesses rely on cloud providers’ standard storage approaches, which tend to replicate data rather than provide multiple backup options and retention periods can be insufficient for those with extended compliance requirements. Firms using this option usually cannot apply bespoke security settings or ensure data is stored fully compliant with rules like the General Data Protection Regulation.

Blizzard adds: “Implementing a solid data backup strategy is essential for business continuity. By following best practices, businesses can significantly enhance their ability to recover from data loss or system failures and ensure continuous operation in the face of unforeseen events.”

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