There are two types of companies.

Those that have already experienced a serious data loss and those that one day will. Unfortunately, most organizations think that their existing data storage and backup plans fully protect them from data loss. All too often, companies discover that a large amount of vital corporate information was left unprotected.

Corporations have steadily moved critical applications and data from the mainframe to servers, and now to desktop and mobile PCs. Key revenue-generating employees are increasingly reliant on mobile PCs as the primary tool for productivity in their jobs and are constantly creating information assets that only exist on those PCs. At every company, from the smallest SoHo to the Global 2000, an estimated 60 percent of vital data is stored on individual PCs, with little or no protection (according to an IDC analyst report). Even more staggering, according to another recent IDC report, the data on as many as 299 million business PCs is currently left unprotected.

In addition, according to Gartner Group statistics, the rate of failure for laptops is as high as 15-20 percent per year and every year 30 percent of all PCs are lost or stolen. When a laptop PC fails, user productivity can be halted for days until it's restored. Furthermore, the total cost of ownership for a PC now has companies spending $6,000-$12,000 a year to keep a single computer operational. With mobile computing on the rise, IT staffs are facing heightened pressure to provide support solutions for remote workers. Without the PC (whether lost, stolen, or compromised by a virus or corrupted file), employees are unproductive and companies inevitably lose money.

Given this information, the operational importance of PC availability and data integrity is clearer than ever, yet most companies do not have an automated information protection and recovery program for their employees' PCs and laptops. In a sense, PC data protection is often the overlooked IT stepchild. Not addressing the issue means that a company is setting itself up for a data-loss disaster.

If there is no PC-encompassing disaster recovery plan in place, a relatively common PC problem such as a corrupted file or virus strike could mean the loss of months of work and hundreds of key documents and data. Companies need technology solutions that will get them back up and running as quickly as possible. Lost time and lost data means lost productivity and reduced ability to generate revenue. Smart, successful companies have paid attention to this and are intensifying their efforts to keep PCs running, while at the same time protecting the valuable corporate information that resides on these important devices.

Most enterprise data-security plans are woefully inadequate with respect to the hundreds of gigabytes of data stored on a corporation's PC hard drives. While many organizations have implemented server backup/recovery processes, automatic desktop and mobile PC backups are not nearly as universal, leaving companies exposed to the possibility of corporate information loss. Keeping a business productive in the face of critical data loss requires a great deal of planning.

A good automated PC backup solution leverages the Internet or a corporate network to simultaneously ensure PC uptime and protect company-wide data, while reducing helpdesk and IT staff burdens. The solution works as well for an individual user as it does for an enterprise with thousands of PCs, with no loss of security, quality or control.

The most effective PC backup solutions will offer the following capabilities:

  • Self-healing. Automated online PC self-healing can eliminate all application, registry and system configuration problems due to virus strikes, application corruption or user effort, in real-time.
  • Efficient and automatic backup. The solution should find and transparently capture all the data at every PC. Once captured, the data should be heavily compressed, encrypted and then efficiently transmitted and stored in mirrored servers.
  • Access. In today's mobile culture, it is important for users, especially mobile or remote workers, to be able to retrieve files via any web browser, providing anytime, anywhere access to important data from any PC that has web access. This is imperative in the face of a disaster.
  • Minimized storage requirement. Backup solutions must minimize the amount of storage required by capturing only the files you've altered, rather than recapturing files already protected and unchanged.

Comprehensive, wide-wide data protection should be part of any good contingency plan. If PC data isn't covered by your plan, it's inadequate. A good backup solution should always be automatic and extend beyond the server to the data and documents stored on corporate desktop and laptop PCs. If implemented, a program of comprehensive corporate information protection will ensure that a greater part of a company's information is always recoverable, no matter what caused the loss. It will also reduce the time and resource drain on IT staff, maximize the use of a company's storage capacity and network bandwidth and increase employee productivity by giving them a simple, quick way of restoring access to vital data, at all times.

Bob Brennan is CEO of Connected Corporation (www.connected.com).