From The Editor | January 13, 2011

Survey: SMBs Are Taking Risks With Data

Webinar: Cloud 101

By Gennifer Biggs, security, storage, and managed services editor

While it may not come as a surprise to those of you working with SMBs and technology on a daily basis, a recent survey by Lenovo reveals that the gap between SMBs and IT tools that can increase productivity remains very wide; plus, those businesses are often engaging in risky IT behaviors. Charles Suñé, SMB portfolio manager at Lenovo, explains that the survey was less about hardware and software than how SMBs are using technology. "We really discovered some good information, much of which reinforced what we already knew," says Suñé. "But, candidly, we also had some surprises with this survey."

Conducted in conjunction with AMD, this survey was presented online by Harris Interactive in fall 2010. It targeted 722 adults aged 18 and over who owned or were employed by a small business with no more than 500 employees.

Among the surprising tidbits, was the prevalence of SMBs that were using unsecured WiFi networks. "We found that most of these users were jumping on unsecured networks — what we call piggybacking — which is a bit surprising," explains Suñé. Driving that decision was the high number of SMB professionals working outside the office on a regular basis. In fact, 85% say they conduct work outside of the office, and a clear majority (72%) admits they rarely take an email-free vacation. "So, in order to keep up many rely on a mobile device, and 25% say they or someone in their company has piggybacked on an unsecured WiFi network to conduct business. Given the security issues with unsecured networks, it is alarming that nearly 1 in 5 owners admit to taking this risk.

If you find that alarming (and as solutions providers, I hope you do!), listen to this: While 40% of small businesses back up files to external hard drives, an 50% of respondents said they use USB thumb drives and CDs/DVDs to backup important information. "It is troubling that these SMBs are taking such risks with important business data," says Suñé. Additionally, those same SMBs are rarely taking advantage of cost-effective archiving solutions that provide extreme security, such as Web-based cloud storage (Only 13%).

Suñé says he hopes the channel can use this information to secure more SMB business. "I believe finding out this information helps us identify new opportunities for VARs and MSPs in the channel. I believe there is a real chance for partnership when it comes to education and helping these SMBs understand the risks they are taking."

With most respondents from businesses that fall into the channel's sweet spot — 10 to 100 seat SMBs — this information should be particularly useful. "We think this survey reveals new and exciting chances to grow their business." Clearly, any MSP or VAR working with those SMBs can use this information to talk about the risks customers may be taking — sometimes unwittingly — and offer both free guidance on best practices, but also work toward a sale of one of those cost-efficient and security solutions available to SMBs.