Information is the lifeblood of business, so why don't small companies protect it?


Date: 2 February 2012

Laptop on fire – are you backed up?{{}}Information is the lifeblood of a business. Without it, everything else you need to make a business tick - like sales, customers or profit – stalls permanently. So making that information easily accessible is vital.

As it’s so important, you’d expect the information to be easily available to the people who need it, and protected from those who don’t. However, the reality is different: at last year’s IP Expo, 60% of people surveyed by my company City Lifeline said they had lost access to their company’s IT system following an unexpected incident. Oops.

In 40% of these cases systems were down for six hours or more, bringing the business to a halt for an entire working day. Just think of all the things your business uses IT for in just one day. Imagine not being able to access your email, check customer documents or view essential data.

Losing access to your data hurts your pocket too. Symantec’s 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey found that losing access to data and electronic communication systems costs small companies an average of £7,500 a day in lost business and productivity.

Prepare for the very worst

Unplanned downtime can stem from something as innocent as a workman cutting through a power cable or as sinister as a malicious cyber attack. Whatever the cause, they all have one thing in common: the element of surprise.

The best business owners not only prepare for the things that are going to happen, but also for things that could happen. “I didn’t know it was going to happen,” is not much of an excuse when faced with an angry customer or an office full of staff who can’t get their work done.

If your business’s information is adequately backed-up, the chances are good that your IT systems will be working by the end of the day. But if not, the consequences can be disastrous.  In a worst case scenario the lost data can never be recovered, and neither can the business.

Some research suggests up to 70% of small businesses that lose data in a major incident are forced to shut within a year. Yet the Symantec report mentioned above also shows that less than half of smaller businesses bother to back up data every week. A mere 23% take daily backups.

Risks are part of business, but...

Taking the odd risk is part and parcel of being in business, but risking the safety of your information is equivalent to cutting off your oxygen supply. Huge corporations often have the money, expertise and resources to escape from a tricky IT gaffe. Quite often, smaller businesses do not.

This vulnerability makes investing in off-site data backup vital. It only takes a one-off incident to disable access to your IT systems. And it only takes one major incident to cripple your business forever.

If you lack the time and resources to create a backup strategy from scratch, it may be worth working with an IT supplier which can store your data securely in a different location. Some suppliers operate or have space in colocation data centres, highly secure buildings specifically designed to keep your information safe. (The company I work for, City Lifeline, offers colocation services.)

Do your business justice by investing in your information in the same way you would invest in a new computer or member of staff. Your information is key to your company’s viability, so return the favour and look after it just as well.

Roger Keenan is MD of City Lifeline.

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