Traditional data loss is on the decline, according to the EMC Global Data Protection Index 2106 released today, but challenges remain.

Compared to 2014, the incidents of data loss and disruption due to hardware failures, power outages, software issues and data corruption have fallen across the board. For example, faulty hardware caused 45 percent of data loss or downtime a year compared to 53 percent two years ago. The average cost of data loss is $914,000, the study found.

The survey, conducted by Vanson Bourne and sponsored by EMC, polled 2,200 IT decision makers. It indicates that enterprises are making good progress in safeguarding data in traditional IT architectures. Unfortunately, many enterprises are leaving the data centers of old behind and transitioning to newer cloud-enabled IT delivery models.

More than 80 percent of respondents said they are using software-as-a-service (SaaS) business applications hosted on public clouds in the next two years, which spells good news to the Saleforces of the world, but potentially bad news for IT personnel tasked with keeping their organizations’ data safe. “Over half of these businesses fail to protect data on the cloud,” Peter Smails, vice president of product marketing for EMC’s Core Technologies and Data Protection group, told InfoStor.

On average, respondents said they run 30 percent of their IT environments in the public cloud, and more than half rely on the cloud for their business email needs. Yet, less than half protect against deletion or data corruption.

“Organizations have to be very vigilant around [cloud data] protection,” said Smails. “People are rapidly deploying cloud [applications]” he noted, but not all cloud providers offer backup and recovery services as part of a SaaS subscription.

Many businesses assume their cloud providers will make things right if an employee accidentally deletes important customer records or an ill-timed outage erases hours of work. Describing a confusing patchwork of data protection policies at various cloud companies, Smails warns that IT managers shouldn’t assume that their SaaS vendors have their back when their data goes missing.

IT executives are also facing a challenge caused by the evolving data center, namely the increased use of flash storage. “Over 70 percent [of respondents] are not confident that they can recover data” from flash-based storage systems and components if disaster strikes, said Smails.

Security breaches are also taking their toll. More than a third of organizations (36 percent) reported that they lost data due to a data security mishap.

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