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Thousands of UK small firms are teetering on the brink of disaster because they are ignoring simple backup procedures needed to safeguard their critical business data, a survey released yesterday has claimed.

According to the online poll, which was conducted by Microsoft, over a quarter of small companies cannot be bothered to back up data at all, while 40 per cent admitted that they only get around to doing back ups less than once a month.

The software giant went on to warn that the danger from shoddy backup procedures will be compounded by what it predicts will be sharp increases in the number of laptops being damaged or stolen. The company cited statistics suggesting that 100,000 laptops will be damaged and nearly 67,000 stolen next year, adding that with figures like these, insurers are advising businesses to incorporate the cost of hardware theft into annual budget planning.

John Coulthard, head of small business for Microsoft UK, said: "A recent MORI study revealed that half the respondents believed their laptop was susceptible to theft, yet more than a third did not make copies of confidential files. Without backing up your data you are liable to lose everything that you have worked so hard to build.

So, we hear you cry, what can be done to halt this apparently inexorable slide toward data disaster? Well, according to Microsoft the answer is to - yes you've guessed it - invest in the company's latest version of Small Business Server (SBS 2003) so you can schedule and centralise backups from the server.

For those that are interested in Microsoft's take on the benefits of server-based backup, the company has teamed up with the British Chambers of Commerce to produce a free networking guide which can be ordered from its small business website, bCentral.co.uk. ®

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