This blog by Axcient was originally published in The VAR Guy on May 16, 2012.

Everyone in the IT industry likes to talk about the importance of ensuring a quality data backup. We all know how vital that data is to our customers, and how losing data can cripple an otherwise flourishing business.

But in the world of small business we see examples every day of companies whose data is at risk with unreliable backup solutions. One standout example of this is businesses that still use USBs to protect their most critical information.

Do you know what the acronym “USB” stands for?  If you said “Universal Serial Bus,” you’d be right … if it was 1996. That’s when USB drives first hit the market, and gave businesses a false sense of data security. Businesses today should know to refer to the USB by its more modern, more accurate name that describes its unreliability as their primary data protection — “Un-Safe Backup.”

Why the unflattering term? Let’s start with the obvious — they’re small and easy to lose. And be honest, we’ve all lost one, whether between the couch cushions, at the bottom of a purse, or at the dry cleaners. In fact, according to a recent survey, we left more than 17,000 USB drives at the dry cleaners in 2010, in addition to our lucky ties. That’s a 400 percent increase in USB drives that we left the local dry cleaners in 2009.

All joking aside, the dangers of USBs are real. Since businesses today are more privy to malware attacks via e-mail and suspicious websites, cybercriminals are now infiltrating more USB drives. Today, roughly 25 percent of malware is intended to crack USB devices.

More than half of the businesses surveyed in a 2011 Ponemon Institute study reported losing sensitive or confidential information that they carried on USB devices within the last two years. More than 70 percent of them reported losing those devices multiple times. Consider that each drive can hold about 12,000 records and breached records cost businesses an average of $194 each, according to the same study. That means one lost USB can set a business back by more than $2.3 million, and this doesn’t count the downtime resulting from this data loss.

What’s more, small businesses suffer the most from the use of Un-Safe Backups, given that so few of them have dedicated IT personnel or have set proper policies that combat USB threats. A December 2010 study by Lenovo of more than 700 small businesses found that 31 percent of SMBs are using USBs to back up their work data. Only 13 percent of respondents were aware of their company using a cloud-based backup solution. We’re talking small banks, independent healthcare facilities, junior law firms — small businesses that carry much of our most sensitive and personal information.

The good news is, where there’s a threat, there’s an opportunity for solution providers and resellers to help. And right now VARs have the opportunity to help small businesses protect themselves against malware and other threats to their networks with a more complete data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity solution. Let’s not forget why SMBs started using USBs in the first place — there weren’t any affordable alternatives 16 years ago. All of the data backup solutions were designed for enterprises and priced accordingly.

But now SMBs have options — access to affordable data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions that will keep their files safe and their businesses up and running. This is much easier than a sales pitch. It’s an opportunity to educate – to make your SMB clients aware that affordable and more reliable alternatives to Un-Safe Backups do exist. After that, smart businesses will be asking for it before you offer it.