EMC, data loss and best guesses

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3 December 2014 | 0

Billy MacInnesToday, I found 50c down the side of the cushion on my sofa. Extrapolating from my find today, I can confidently proclaim that with around 1.5 million households in the country, Ireland’s people could unlock an extra €750,000 of consumer spending IN A SINGLE DAY if they all looked down the sides and backs of their sofas today. This figure could be even higher if a significant number of households have more than one sofa. If we found 50c every month, that’s an extra €9 million into the economy every year. If we found 50c every day, it would be a whopping €273.75 million a year. Someone should tell the government.

So I’m being facetious but there is a serious point here which relates to an article I saw on the MicroScope website reporting the findings of the EMC Global Data Protection Index. The story was headlined UK businesses lose £10.5bn over downtime and data loss. I have to say I was surprised at such a staggering figure. Or maybe I was staggered at such a surprising figure. Either way, I was staggered and surprised. Thankfully, I didn’t see the worldwide figure, an inconceivable $1.7 trillion (as reported on TechCentral.ie), until much later.

So how did EMC conclude that UK businesses were losing such a huge amount of money as a result of downtime and data loss? The survey, conducted by Vanson Bourne, polled a total of 3,300 IT decision makers in mid-sized and enterprise-class businesses across 24 countries. Not 3,300 in the UK but 3,300 in 24 countries. The methodology of the survey reveals that there were 200 respondents in the UK.

So, from the experiences of 200 people, EMC was able to extrapolate that UK businesses had lost $16.4 billion, made up of $9.5 billion from unplanned downtime and $6.9 billion from data loss. Now, I’m sure there are some very clever people at EMC, quite a few of them are probably mathematical whizz kids who know more about this stuff than I do, but I still can’t help feeling there’s a certain level of guesswork in taking the responses of 200 people and extrapolating from them to come up with a figure for all businesses in the UK.

Behind the numbers
According to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, there were an estimated 4.9 million businesses in the UK at the start of 2013, employing 24.3 million people. Somehow, by talking to 200 people from 200 of those 4.9 million businesses, EMC was able to make the claim that all those companies had lost £10.5 billion from downtime and data loss. Which is pretty amazing, when you think about it.

However, when you consider the sheer number of businesses in the UK, that figure of £10.5 billion doesn’t look quite as incredible as it first appears, amounting to just under £2,143 per company. Now while £2,143 is a reasonable amount of cash, it’s not extortionate (it wouldn’t leave someone in the UK with much change from a 27″ iMac with Retina 5k display – £144 to be precise). Is that really such a big deal?

You may be wondering why I haven’t written about Ireland and the cost to Irish businesses of unplanned downtime and data loss. Sadly, I can’t because Ireland wasn’t included in the survey. All I can say is that if Irish businesses had been surveyed, the amount lost would have appeared daunting at first but perhaps less so upon closer reflection. The bad news is that it would still be much higher than the amount people might find hidden in their sofas. It might even be more than the sofas were worth.

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