A high proportion of small firms fail adequately to secure their electronic data, according to a survey from server appliance manufacturer Equiinet.
The report also found that almost half of attempts to recover lost data fail to some extent even at firms with a relatively large number of professional IT staff and with back-up systems in place.
"Despite a lot of time and effort in undertaking the back-up process, older back-up technologies, such as tapes, have considerable drawbacks," said Equiinet product marketing director Dave Abbot.
"Our survey showed that 40 per cent of data recovery attempts fail to restore all the required data."
It was also revealed that back-up media is often stored insecurely. Nearly two-thirds of companies admitted leaving back-up data in the same room as their servers, putting both at risk should there be a fire or flood.
Truly secure offsite storage was found to be a rarity. Many businesses admitted that when tapes or other media are stored offsite they are taken home by IT staff, which is not considered good practice.
The survey also showed that nearly 80 per cent of companies abdicate responsibility when it comes to backing up data on individuals' laptops and standalone PCs.
"Asking users to undertake back-ups is a recipe for disaster and is particularly worrying given the increasing trend for decentralised working," said Abbot.
"Handing over responsibility to individual users means that back-up is never going to happen reliably.
"Automated systems covering all the company's data, from servers to the laptops of forgetful users, are needed to ensure that data is saved securely."
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