Data backup strategies in focus as 800,000 UK firms admit to losing data since 2019

Cloud-based data backup strategies concept image showing a cloud symbol linked to multiple storage nodes indicating backup options.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Experts have raised concerns over inadequate data backup strategies amid claims that more than 800,000 UK firms lost company data in the last five years. 

Commercial data loss was found to cost the UK over £1 billion a year and more than £5.3 billion since 2019, according to analysis from Beaming.

Businesses with between 10 and 250 staff have seen the worst effects, with costs including financial penalties, expenses associated with recovering data and replacing people or assets involved in incidents, and lost productivity during periods in which the business couldn't operate as usual.

Nearly six-in-ten finance businesses, including financial services providers and accountants, admitted to having lost data between 2019 and 2023 - more than any other sector.

The most expensive data loss incidents, meanwhile, came in the manufacturing sector, where the median cost was more than £60,000.

Sonia Blizzard, managing director at Beaming, said the scale of data losses in recent years underlines the need for robust data backup strategies, which many companies are overlooking.

“Data loss occurs for all sorts of reasons, including hardware theft or failure, cyber crime, data management errors and events such as fire or floods," she said.

"A robust data backup strategy is fundamental to risk management and business continuity planning. It safeguards critical data, supports recovery efforts, and helps maintain a business’s resilience and reputation in the face of these challenges."

Businesses swerving data backup strategies

Around a quarter of businesses make no effort to back up company data, Beaming found, while 12% keep one copy of data only, either on individual users’ computers or on a single server in the office. 

Only 22% of companies systematically backup data to a specialist offsite facility or provider with full knowledge and control of backup procedures and where their data is held.

A third maintain an air-gapped data backup physically isolated from the internet, and 29% encrypt data as it travels between their primary data center or business site and backup location.

Around half of businesses, though, engage in bad backup practices, making copies of data in a flawed way. Fewer than half encrypt their data while 31% don't make backups frequently enough.

Beaming also found 17% keep copies in exactly the same location as the original data, leaving them vulnerable to events such as fires or floods.

Additionally, around one-third rely on cloud providers’ standard storage approaches. This raises issues, Beaming found, including the fact that these tend to replicate data rather than provide multiple backup options.

Short retention periods on data backup were also flagged as an issue here, along with concerns that data storage may not be fully compliant with GDPR.

Blizzard said that despite concerns over lackluster data backup strategies, there are signs businesses are waking up to the potential pitfalls of failing to introduce robust measures.

"The good news is that more businesses are making more effort to back up their data than five years ago," she said. "The bad news is that most haven’t gone far enough, especially given the growing importance of data to businesses today."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.