By Monica Girolami, director of SMB Product Marketing, Symantec Corp.
For today’s small and medium sized businesses, information is what allows them to compete in the global marketplace. As more and more business takes place online, and on mobile devices, the amount of information stored by businesses is rapidly growing, and it’s becoming the focus of cybercrime as well as protection efforts. Symantec conducted its 2012 State of Information Survey to determine how businesses are doing when it comes to managing their data, in order to help them better protect it.
The Challenge of Information Today
The first thing that stood out in the survey was the sheer amount of information businesses are storing today. SMBs are now storing an average of 563 terabytes of data. While this may be dwarfed by the 100,000 terabytes enterprises are storing, it still represents a significant information management challenge. In fact, it’s costing SMBs $332,000 per year just to store and manage this information. For each employee, they are spending an average of $3,670 per year – more than the $3,297 enterprises spend.
SMBs reported that the information they own makes up 40 percent of the company’s worth. It’s no wonder then that 49 percent felt they would lose customers if their business information were lost. They were also concerned about brand damage, increased expenses and decreased revenue in the event of lost or stolen information.
The survey revealed that although SMBs are aware of the importance of protecting their information, they are still facing challenges managing it. One problem is that 41 percent of their information is duplicated data, which means they are expending unnecessary resources dealing with it. In addition, nearly two-thirds of them have lost important business information within the last year, from a variety of issues such as human error, system failures and loss or theft of devices. And nine in ten have actually experienced the exposure of confidential information during the last 12 months. To make matters worse, nearly one-fourth of SMBs have experienced issues with regulatory compliance. The businesses surveyed noted that one significant factor in these situations is information sprawl, or the continued growth of unorganized, duplicated data that lacks clear policies or management.
Keys to More Effective Information Management
In order for SMBs to be able to take control of their information and make it work for them, it’s important to develop an information-centric approach to IT. The following recommendations can help SMBs take better control of their data.
Focus on the information, not the device or the data center: The ability to find and access important information is vital, and it should be the focus of building an SMB’s infrastructure. To that end, many have already begun adopting the latest technologies to make information more accessible, including virtualization, cloud computing and the use of mobile devices for business.
Not all information is equal: One thing the survey revealed is the lack of knowledge among businesses regarding what exactly they are storing, who owns it, or how important it is. SMBs need to classify and map their information, to discover what is most valuable. With that knowledge, they can then determine where to best focus their protection efforts.
Be efficient: As data continues growing, it’s important to minimize inefficiencies in storage. SMBs should consider taking advantage of deduplication and archiving technologies, which increase protection even as they reduce the amount of information storage needed.
Consistency is key: Because information today is stored and retrieved in a variety of physical and virtual environments, setting consistent policies that can be applied across the board is important. Effective policies control who has access to what information, as well as improving the speed of eDiscovery and automating the retention and deletion of information.
Stay agile: Planning for future needs is an integral part of an effective information management strategy. SMBs should implement a flexible infrastructure that will support growth.
Because of the massive increase in the information businesses are storing, it’s more important than ever for SMBs to rein in costs and reduce the risks they are facing. With today’s technology, they can take an intelligent approach in order to get the most out of their information and improve the overall efficiency of their business.