SMBs unprepared for disasters, Symantec finds

Small and medium businesses have unwarranted confidence in disaster recovery capability

Small and midsize businesses are confident in their disaster recovery capabilities, but their actual performance preventing outages shows they are "remarkably unprepared," according to survey results released Monday by Symantec.

Four out of five SMBs are satisfied with their disaste-recovery plans, and two-thirds believe their customers would be willing to "wait patiently until our systems were back in place" in the event of an outage, Symantec found.

But that confidence is unwarranted. Three out of four SMBs report that they are based in a region susceptible to natural disasters. The average respondent suffered three outages in the past 12 months, either from natural disasters, power outages, or virus and hacker attacks.

"With this kind of exposure, and with the confidence SMBs display about their disaster preparedness, one would think SMBs have solid disaster-recovery plans in place," Symantec writes in the SMB Disaster Preparedness report. "However this is not universally the case -- almost half (47 percent) report they do not yet have a plan to deal with such disruptions."

Survey respondents included 1,657 companies worldwide, including both SMBs (companies with 10 to 499 employees) and their customers. The report is a follow-up to Symantec's annual Disaster Recovery Research Report released last summer,  which found that the average cost of executing and implementing a recovery plan amounted to $US287,600 for each downtime incident.

This week's SMB study found that in some areas, respondents showed "an alarming lack of readiness," according to Symantec.

"First, the average SMB backs up only 60 percent of its company and customer data," Symantec writes. "Second, they do so infrequently. Only one in five (23 percent) back up on a daily basis and 40 percent back up monthly or less. This inattention to data backup is echoed by the fact that more than half (55 percent) of the SMBs feel they would lose 40 percent of their company data if their computing systems were wiped out in a fire."

This lack of preparedness puts SMBs at risk of losing customers. Two out of five SMB customers surveyed by Symantec have switched vendors because they decided their vendor's technology was unreliable.

More than a quarter of customers had suffered outages, many of which were significant. Forty-two percent of outages reported by SMB customers lasted eight hours or more, and 26 per cent of customers reported losing data because of a vendor's outage. Customers said the estimated cost of outages averaged $US15,000 per day.

Symantec offered several recommendations to SMBs looking to bolster their disaster-recovery preparedness.

First SMBs should determine what critical information should be secured and protected, giving priority to customer, financial and business information, and trade secrets. SMBs should also automate the backup process to minimize human error, and test systems annually to ensure that data can be recovered and downtime minimized during a disaster.

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