By Daniel Hunter

One in three companies is putting business operations at risk by storing data back-ups on-site, according to new research by specialist IT providers Onyx Group and leading industry magazine, Computing.

The research, which took place among IT managers in UK SMEs, shows that less than half back-up data off-site in a secure data centre, despite the risk that loss of IT poses to business continuity.

In a recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), IT loss was rated as the greatest threat to business continuity ahead of loss of skills, electricity and even people.* Research has shown that the average cost of downtime for SMEs is £27,000 per hour**, with this sum reaching six figures for larger companies and e-commerce models.

The research by data centre, business continuity and cloud services provider Onyx also revealed that just 16 per cent of businesses are confident that their disaster recovery procedures are as good as they could be. A further 14 per cent did not know whether they could be improved.

Neil Stephenson, CEO at Onyx Group commented: “This research shows a real lack of confidence in existing disaster recovery procedures and an obvious need to review and improve the business continuity plans that many UK SMEs currently have in place.

“Our research paints a worrying picture of how UK SMEs would deal with issues such as theft, fire, flooding, hardware failures, power outages or human error that all place business continuity at risk. Just 18 per cent of those surveyed thought that they would be able to limit disruption suffered by such an event to a couple of hours, meaning the large majority of companies risk significant damage to both revenue and reputation.”

While all respondents invest some time in backing up and protecting their data, there are serious flaws in the methods used to do so. Just 69 per cent of companies surveyed have procedures in place for home working and only one third incorporate cloud services into their business continuity strategies, despite the benefits that off-site data storage and hosting bring. Half of those companies that are yet to include cloud in their disaster recovery plans say that it is due to lack of security and trust in a provider’s procedures and services.

Stephenson said: “IT is the lifeblood of most businesses today and so constantly keeping your data safe and secure to maintain business continuity is essential. The research results show that many businesses are taking unnecessary risks with data management and that could prove to be extremely costly.

“The research highlighted obvious gaps in business continuity planning. All businesses should have procedures in place in the event that a workplace is inaccessible due to circumstances such as flooding or fires. The ability to relocate staff to an additional site or having procedures in place to allow staff to work securely from home is key to minimising the impact of a disaster.

"Off-site data storage and hosting, whether in a data centre or in the cloud, is also an essential element of any business continuity plan. Data that is stored in the cloud is protected against theft, floods or fires and damage that can be caused due to in-house hardware failures or power surges. Quality providers will also monitor data 24/7 and provide leading firewalls to offer greatest security.”

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