Symantec: 50% of Business Data Resides Outside the Firewall

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted November 16, 2012

Explosive mobile device adoption and a booming cloud services market are driving unprecedented levels of "information sprawl," says Symantec.

"Businesses are undergoing a transformation unlike anything we've seen before. With mobile devices and cloud giving employees access to information from nearly anywhere, we're also seeing more sensitive information living beyond the traditional IT boundaries," says Francis deSouza, group president of Enterprise Products and Services for Symantec, in a press statement.

Do You Know Where Your Small Business Data Is?

According to the company's Digital Information Index, part of the 2012 State of Information Survey, 46 percent of business information is now stored outside of the firewall. Enterprises report the same levels of external data storage at 46 percent.


For small and midsized businesses (SMBs), that figure is higher.

Small businesses keep 53 percent of their data outside of the firewall, says Symantec. The security and backup software specialist explains that SMBs typically keep more data on laptops than enterprises, 24 percent in the case of SMBs and 10 percent for big businesses. Symantec polled 4,506 organizations across 38 countries for the study.

Sensitive business data is also making its way onto smartphones and tablets, courtesy of the growing popularity of bring your own device (BYOD) programs. Eleven percent of small business data is stored on mobile devices. Smartphones have the edge in this regard, soaking up eight percent of that data versus three percent for tablets.

With so much data flowing outside the confines of the firewall, security is emerging as a big concern.

BYOD Risks Surface

As Dean Gonsowski, Symantec's e-Discovery attorney, explains in a company blog post, "Awareness of information sprawl is important because of the wide-ranging and often negative effects it can have on businesses. In fact, information sprawl was identified as the culprit in more than one-quarter of survey responses and as a "significant factor" in information mishaps."

More than a third of businesses told Symantec that they suffered the exposure of confidential information due to lost or stolen mobile devices. Forty-six percent of respondents do not feel that the data residing on their smartphones is secure and 47 percent have the same misgivings about tablets.

In terms of instilling confidence, cloud providers also have their work cut out.

Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed worried that their private/hybrid cloud storage setups weren't sufficiently protected. Public cloud storage has a slightly worse reputation. Forty-two percent of those polled expressed concern about trusting their data with online storage companies.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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