Human error still the biggest factor in data loss 

Human error is still the leading cause of data loss for organisations in the UK, research finds.

Human error is still the leading cause of data loss for organisations in the UK, research finds.

Around 24 per cent of organisations admit to a data loss caused by employee accidents in the last 12 months. 

Other high-scoring causes of data loss include hardware failure (21 per cent) and data corruption (19 per cent), according to a report by Databarracks of more than 400 IT decision-makers. 

Oscar Arean, technical operations manager at Databarracks says that human error has consistently been the biggest area of concern for organisations when it comes to data loss. ‘People will always be your weakest link, but having said that, there is a lot that businesses could be doing to prevent it, so we’d expect this figure to be lower,’ he adds. 

The results weren’t consistent across all organisations. When they were broken down by business size, for the second year in a row, it was actually hardware failure which contributed the most towards data loss across large organisations at 31 per cent (up from 29 per cent in 2014).

‘This isn’t surprising as the majority of large organisations will have more stringent user policies in place to limit the amount of damage individuals can cause,’ says Arean.

‘Secondly, due to the complexity of their infrastructure, and the cost of maintaining it, large organisations may find it more difficult to refresh their hardware as often as smaller organisations, so it’s inevitable at some point it will just give out.’

Arean goes on to suggest that SMEs should adopt more of a big business ethos when it comes to managing human error.

‘The figures we’re seeing this year for data loss due to human error are too high (16 per cent of small businesses and 31 per cent of medium businesses), especially considering how avoidable it is with proper management.

‘I think a lot of SMEs fall into the trap of thinking their teams aren’t big enough to warrant proper data security and management policies, but we would disagree with that.’

In large organisations, managers can lock down user permissions to limit the access they have to certain data or the actions they’re able to take, limiting the amount of damage they’re able to cause, Arean says.

‘In smaller organisations, there isn’t always the available resource to do this and often users are accountable for far more within their roles. That is absolutely fine, but there needs to be processes in place to manage the risks that come with that responsibility.

‘Of course small organisations don’t need an extensive policy on the same scale that a large enterprise would, but their employees need to be properly educated on best practice for handling data and the consequences of their actions on the business as a whole. There should be clear guidelines for them to follow.’

Further reading on data loss

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.