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January 13, 2011

SMBs lack disaster preparedness despite high risk: Symantec

Half of the surveyed respondents do not have a disaster preparedness plan in place

By CBR Staff Writer

Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are not giving priority to disaster preparation, despite the high risks, according to Symantec survey of 2001 SMB Disaster Preparedness.

The findings show that many SMBs do not understand the importance of disaster preparedness. Half of the respondents do not have a plan in place.

Forty-one percent said that it never occurred to them to put together a plan and 40% stated that disaster preparedness is not a priority for them.

The lack of preparation is surprising given how many SMBs are at risk. Sixty-five percent of respondents live in regions susceptible to natural disasters.

In the past 12 months, the typical SMB experienced 6 computer outages, with the leading causes being cyberattacks, power outages or natural disasters.

The survey revealed that the information that drives most small- and mid-sized businesses is simply not protected. Less than half of SMBs back up their data weekly or more frequently and only 23% back up daily.

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Respondents also reported that a disaster would cause information loss. In fact, 44% of SMBs said they would lose at least 40% of their data in the event of a disaster.

In survey, Symantec found that half of the SMBs that have implemented disaster preparedness plans did so after experiencing an outage and/or data loss.

Fifty-two percent put together their plans within the last six months. However, only 28% have actually tested their recovery plans, which is a critical component of actually being prepared for a potential disaster.

It found that disasters can have a significant financial impact on SMBs. The median cost of downtime for an SMB is £78,000 per day. Outages cause users to leave. 54% of SMB user respondents reported they have switched SMB vendors due to unreliable computing systems, a 12% increase compared with last year’s survey.

This downtime can also put them out of business. Also, 44% of SMB users surveyed stated that their SMB vendors have temporarily shut down due to a disaster.

Users of SMBs also reported considerable effects to their own businesses. When SMBs experience downtime, it costs their users an average of £65,000 per day. In addition to direct financial costs, 29% of SMB users lost "some" or "a lot" of important data as a result of disasters impacting their SMB vendors.

Based on the survey, Symantec has released few recommendations to the SMBs which say it is critical for them to not wait until after a disaster to think about what they should have done to protect their information.

They have been asked to protect information to reduce the risk of losing critical business information, by implementing appropriate security and backup offerings to archive important files, such as customer records and financial information.

It is suggested that keeping in mind about the natural disasters, power outages and cyberattacks, which can result in data and financial loss, SMBs need to make sure important files are saved not only on an external hard drive and/or company network, but in a safe, off-site location.

SMBs should involve employees in preventing downtime and should be educated on computer security best practices and what to do if information is accidentally deleted or cannot easily be found in their files.

Test frequently SMBs plan anytime anything changes in environment. SMBs should at least review their disaster preparedness plan on a quarterly basis.

Symantec director of distribution and SMB for UK and Ireland Ross Walker said despite warnings, it seems like many still think it can’t happen to them. Disasters happen and SMBs cannot afford to risk losing their information or their customers’ critical information.

"Simple planning can enable SMBs to protect their information in the event of a disaster, which in turn will help them build trust with their customers," Ross said.

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