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The Year in Downtime and Data Loss: Tallying Up The Numbers

These days, you're apt to read a lot of headlines about how bad it is to overlook the potential for enterprise data loss. And each of these articles is making a valid point. But you're forgiven if the sheer amount of data protection-driven content flooding your inbox, Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile begins to seem a little overwhelming and even abstract to you. After all, there's only so many new data breaches you can learn about before a certain fatigue starts to set in. But we have a cure for this ennui: a look at some cold, hard facts. A recent, wide-ranging study by EMC interviewed thousands of IT decision-makers around the world to paint as comprehensive a picture as possible of business data protection in the world today. The results of EMC's study — which encompassed 24 countries — quantifiably reveals the impact of data loss and downtime on businesses, and it's not a pretty picture.

A Worldwide Problem That's Only Intensifying

Collectively, EMC spoke with 3,300 IT decision-makers in order to produce the survey results. Those respondents came from all over the world, and from both public and private enterprises. Yet despite the diverse range of participants in the survey, there were some surprising commonalities that emerged across the board. First of all, data loss is expensive — really expensive. As the survey found, the average business out there loses around 2.3 TB of data per year (that's roughly 24 million emails). This comes out to over $1 million in costs, just from the lost data alone. But there's another enterprise-related function that eclipses data loss in terms of the monetary havoc it wreaks on a businesses: downtime. Of those companies surveyed by EMC, the typical one had experienced three days of downtime in the past year, which adds up to around $870,000. While that number is lower than the $1 million in data loss fees, downtime is something that impacted more organizations. As a result, collectively, downtime has cost organizations $954 billion this year. Data loss, meanwhile, has racked up a $754 billion tab. Put those two together and you have a massive $1.7 trillion in costs. Downtime and data loss have many different potential points of origin, but some are more common than others. Here are a few of the most widespread causes:
  • Malware and other breaches: No surprise here. When a company gets attacked by a malicious intruder, the goal of that hacker is most often to extract specific data - like, say, customer payment information or employee access codes. For this reason, data loss is often one of many consequences of a retail breach. In 2013, for instance, a global survey by BSA and The Software Alliance found that 59 percent of businesses out there suffered data loss due to malware that came in via unlicensed software.  But malware doesn't only cause data loss — it also has the potential to lead to significant downtime. This was brought to light recently when a major corporation was attacked by a particularly virulent malicious strain. As a result, the company's computer system went down and its workers had to resort to pens, papers and fax machines while the malicious intrusion played out.
  • Accidental user error: Let's face it: When it comes to computers, we all make innocent mistakes, and employees at your business likely aren't an exception. Thus, it can often happen that a staff member inadvertently trashes an important file, therefore leading to costly data loss.
  • Hardware failure: This one is pretty self-explanatory, and represents the single greatest cause of data loss and downtime.
For a business that's hit by either data loss and/or downtime, the consequences are immediate. As the EMC report pointed out, these repercussions include decreases in employee productivity, a hit in revenue, loss of business opportunities and failure to keep up with enterprise competition. Today's enterprise sphere is cutthroat, and there's simply not room for organizations that are going to suffer major instances of downtime. Luckily, there are steps to take to make your business as resilient as possible when it comes to staving off downtime and information losses.

Bolstering Defenses And Preventing Downtime

The overwhelming message from the EMC survey is that businesses aren't as prepared as they need to be when it comes to guarding data from loss and downtime. A full 71 percent of participants in the study stated that they are "not fully confident that they can recover systems/data today from all platforms." These days, more businesses are using the cloud and mobile platforms than ever before. But the idea that mobility and cloud technology are contributing to a lack of preparation for a data loss/downtime incident is simply false. Indeed, provided they're well-deployed, an enhanced mobile strategy and cloud presence can actually boost a company's security and limit its risk of loss or downtime. Here are some of the forward-thinking tactics companies should look to employ in order to get to a more secure place where business is always on and virtually nothing is lost:
  • Invest in mobile device management: Mobile devices can play a pivotal role in limiting downtime. Let's say, for instance, that there's a flood at your physical headquarters and all the machinery there is placed out of commission. If your business has a robust BYOD plan in place, then business can still function as normal despite this obstacle. The opportunities for near-constant uptime that mobility opens up are unparalleled. But to have a strong mobile presence, you need it to be well-defended too, which is where a mobile security solution from Entrust comes in handy.
  • Get on par with other businesses out there: One of the more notable findings to come out of the EMC study is that "87 percent of businesses are behind the curve for data protection maturity." Based on this piece of information, the odds are much greater than not that your enterprise isn't up to snuff when it comes to protective measures for data. Therefore, it's imperative that, as a business, you familiarize yourself with standards for data protection across industries and strive to meet those standards.
  • Don't have siloed protection: You're a company with three departments: A, B and C. Instead of protecting all of them, you only invest in a solution for C, which holds the most privileged data. But lo and behold, when a hacker invades your system, he takes information from department A. Businesses that silo protection in this manner are exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.
As the EMC study revealed, data protection should be a major imperative for businesses of all types. And the risk of data loss has only grown with the years. As InfoStar reported, "on average, companies lost 400 percent more data over the past two years." With these kinds of mounting losses on the table, the time has never been more important for enterprises to make every effort to guard their information in order to prevent downtime and the irrevocable loss of data. By pursuing proactive solutions, this doesn't have to be the case for your company.

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