Have you backed up your data lately?

Computers have become ubiquitous in business. The rise in the use of laptops means a greater chance for malfunctions, theft and loss. Laptops also are more likely to lose data due to accidental damage, such as dropping.

Secondly, more data is being stored in smaller spaces as hard drive capacity increases, according to a 2003 study at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. That means that an enormous amount of business data can be stored on a single laptop.

Consider the statistics:

  • Data loss costs U.S. businesses more than $18 billion a year, according to the Pepperdine study.
  • About 70% of business people have experienced data loss due to accidental deletion, disk or system failure, viruses, fire or some other disaster, according to a May survey by Boston-based Carbonite, which provides online backup services to consumers.
  • Another recent survey by Symantec, a software maker, found that 90% of users store personal information on their computer. However, only 57% back up their data.
  • The first reaction of employees who lose their data is to try to recover the lost document themselves by using recovery software or either restarting or unplugging their computer — steps that can make later data recovery impossible, according to a 2005 global survey by Minneapolis-based Ontrack Data Recovery.

Safeguarding data can be as easy as backing up information to a CD, DVD or external hard drive or using an online backup service that charges for the protection.

The average life expectancy for a hard drive is three to five years, says Michelle Zuzow at ADR American Data Recovery.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s when,” Zuzow says, adding that data recovery can take three to five days and cost more than $1,000. Most of ADR’s clients are businesses that have lost critical data. “Some have no backup in place.”

Theft is a major concern

While the majority of data loss happens as a result of a hard drive failing, theft is also a major concern — especially as more companies move to laptops instead of desktop PCs.

Nearly 90% of computer users who had their laptops stolen said the device contained company communications, as well as confidential business and personal information, according to a 2005 survey by Credant Technologies, a security software provider in Addison, Texas.

Moral of the story?

Backup your data. Though it may seem unimportant at the time, the reduction in cost and your overall stress level, in the event of a data distaster, is more than worth it.