Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa are flirting with disaster by failing to improve their policies on backing up data, which is often critical to the very survival of their businesses.
This is one of the key findings to emerge from SME Survey 2015, the latest edition of the original and largest representative survey of SMEs in South Africa which, since 2003, has been assessing the forces shaping SME competitiveness.
It has long been accepted that despite the size of its individual businesses, the SME sector as a whole is of critical importance to the South African economy. Of course, if SMEs are to play the significant role envisioned for them, it is critical they make the best possible use of the technology options available to them.
It may seem counterintuitive for SMEs – which by their very nature as small operations can ill-afford to lose all their important data – to fail to back up properly, but that is what seems to be happening, according to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx and principal researcher for SME Survey.
“Our research turned up a dramatic evolution in the manner in which most SMEs back up their data. This is partly because the 2015 Survey altered the sample concept slightly from that of the previous year.”
Initially, explains Goldstuck, the survey tried to obtain a similar sized sample across the different bands of SMEs – in other words, the smaller and larger entities within this market space.
“The trouble is that there are far more smaller SMEs than there are larger ones, and once we decided to normalise the sample this year and reflect the true size of each segment, we noticed that considerably fewer organisations were backing up continually. The percentage changed from 15% in 2014 to just 2,6% this year. This tells us that the bigger the business, the more likely it is to continually backup,” he says.
It is now clear, he says, that many of the smaller SMEs are genuinely flirting with disaster.
“In the 2014 sample, some 17,7% of SMEs claimed to do their backing up on a weekly basis, while this figure has increased to 21,4% in 2015. Furthermore, the 2014 Survey indicated that 13% of SMEs only backed up monthly, but this figure is up to 19% in 2015.
“Backing up any less than on a daily basis can prove to be disastrous for an SME, yet the figures demonstrate that those SMEs doing exactly this have risen from 30.5% in 2014 to 40% in 2015,” he says.
It is clear that something needs to be done to educate these businesses around the dangers of not backing up enough, says Spencer Chen, products director at Rectron. “Service providers and technology suppliers have a role to play here too, and I believe that the results of SME Survey 2015 will enable us to provide better information and technology to those businesses that are currently running such risks by not backing up enough.”
Goldstuck suggests that, in an era where electronic information is the lifeblood of a business, it is almost absurd to consider that more than one out of every three SMEs only backs up on a weekly or monthly basis. It is particularly concerning at a time when load-shedding and regular power outages mean that unsaved work could be lost in a moment. Such a lax attitude to business information, he states, can only be regarded as reckless.
“The survey also indicates that, while power failures and crime are considered major issues for SMEs and they have clearly recognised the challenges raised by these matters, they have not realised the same with regard to protecting their data. SMEs need to understand that in these times, when everyone is so dependent on the information stored on their computers, no business can afford to back up on a less than daily basis,” he says.