2024 State of the Backup: Survey Says Security Incidents and Data Loss on the Rise

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June is Backup Awareness Month, and every year, we work with the Harris Poll to survey the state of computer backups in the U.S. It’s our 16th year running, and this year, we expanded our lens and created a new survey focused on analyzing the state of backups among businesses, providing critical insights into organizational backup strategies and challenges. 

And as in previous years, our consumer backup survey provides a comprehensive summary which reflects trends and changes over nearly two decades. The combination of these two audience surveys provides a more complete picture for the state of backups in the U.S. Let’s start with our new survey data.

Spotlight: Business Backup Is Coming Up Short

Our inaugural Business Backup Survey included 300 IT decision makers across the U.S. Part of what we wanted to learn was: 

With all of the different ways IT professionals have to protect their user’s data, how are they choosing to back up and are backup solutions even working? 

We can infer the answers to those questions by looking at the tools organizations use to back up their data, the frequency of data recoveries, and how successful or not those recoveries were.

What Tools Do Organizations Use to Back Up Their Data?

One of the most striking findings from the poll is that a significant majority (84%) of IT decision makers say their organizations utilize cloud drive services, which rely on syncing data to the cloud, for off-site data backup. You may have heard us say this before—sync is not backup

What’s Wrong with Cloud Drives and Sync Services?

Cloud drives allow for file storage and sharing but may not protect against file corruption or accidental deletion. Sync services automatically update files across multiple devices, meaning that any changes or deletions are replicated everywhere, which can lead to unintended data loss. While some cloud drives have added minimal backup capabilities (i.e., 30 days of version history or similar), they are often lacking in key areas that are necessary for business continuity or compliance standards. 

Cloud backup solutions, on the other hand, are designed to systematically and securely back up data, offering robust protection against loss, corruption, and security breaches. This makes cloud backup a better choice, particularly for addressing security concerns and ensuring the integrity and availability of critical data.

How Often Do Organizations Need to Restore Data?

39% of IT decision-makers report that their organizations need to restore data from backups at least once a month, with special requests for archived or deleted data (62%), backup software failure (54%), hard drive failure (52%), and cyber attacks (49%) reported as some of the top reasons. This frequent need for data recovery underscores the persistent vulnerabilities IT professionals face.

Are Data Recoveries Successful?

Not only do many organizations need to restore on a regular basis, but the survey also shows that among those that experienced data loss, only 42% were able to recover all of their data when they perform a restore. That leaves 58% with some amount of unrecovered data. 

Are Backups Working?

The data shows a sizable gap between the use of backup services and the effectiveness of data restoration. Although a significant percentage of organizations indicate they’re using what they would consider a cloud backup solution (the shortcomings of cloud drives and cloud sync services aside), only 42% of those that experienced data loss were able to restore all their data. This discrepancy highlights the risks associated with inadequate backup measures and the potential for data loss, which can have serious repercussions for businesses.

Only 42% of organizations that experienced data loss were able to restore all their data.

There are all sorts of ways businesses need to slice their data management strategy in order to make sure all data is backed up. This includes data type (e.g., files vs. system information), frequency with which the data is updated or changed, retention requirements for compliance, and more. There are often reasons that businesses will employ different backup frequency or strategies for different file types—file-based versus block-level incremental backups, for example. However, incomplete backups can lead to situations where only parts of the data can be restored, disrupting business operations and resulting in downtime as efforts are made to recover or reconstruct lost data. 

The importance of creating an end-to-end data backup plan, as well as choosing the right tools that provide comprehensive coverage, may be highlighted only at the moment of failure. As it stands, the Harris Poll data suggests that the limitations of cloud sync and cloud drive tools are leaving gaps in data protection and disaster recovery strategies.

This is further validated by the features IT decision makers report as being absolutely essential/very important in selecting backup tools, including security (97%), bandwidth and memory capacity (87%), a variety of features (79%), ease of operations and customizable elements (83% each). These rigorous requirements suggest that many existing solutions may fall short of meeting the comprehensive needs of modern businesses, and/or that the complex mix of tools may be contributing to blind spots in an overall data management strategy, only exposed at the point of recovery.  

How To Close the Gap?

These insights underscore the need for innovative and robust backup solutions that address evolving business requirements. As the volume of data continues to grow and cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, the demand for reliable, secure, and user-friendly backup systems will only heighten. Given the challenges many businesses face in fully recovering their data, there’s an opportunity to promote education and awareness regarding the importance of refreshing backup strategies and utilizing suitable backup tools.

Consumer Backup Practices: Less Than 1 in 5 Are Certain of Their Backups

The consumer portion of the 2024 Backup Awareness Survey seeks to understand a simple question we’ve asked year after year: How often do you back up all of the data on your computer? We also look at who backs up the most and the reasons people cite for needing to restore data, and we compare those trends over time. Let’s dig in to the results. 

How Often Do People Back Up?

This year’s survey reveals that fewer than 1 in 5 Americans (15%) feel absolutely certain that their most important files are securely backed up. This is despite 84% of Americans who own a computer stating that they’ve backed up all their data and 45% performing backups at least once a month.

The survey also highlights the predominance of cloud solutions among backup methods. 63% of individuals who back up their data use a cloud-based system as their primary method. However, only 11% utilize dedicated cloud backup services, indicating a preference towards cloud drives (39%) and sync services (13%). As we noted above, cloud drives and sync services are fundamentally different from cloud backup solutions and can create gaps in a robust 3-2-1 backup strategy

Who Is Best at Backing Up?

Every year, we highlight which demographic is the best at backing up their data, and in 2024, men (73% vs. 66% of women) and younger adults ages 18–54 (76% vs. just 61% of those ages 55+) take the lead backing up at least once a year. 

The Reasons for Restores

The survey also found that 74% of Americans who own a computer have accidentally deleted important data (a 5.7% increase from 2023), and 57% have experienced a security incident on their computer.

Trends Over Time

For those interested in the data over time, let’s travel back and see how this year’s data compares to previous years. The first graph is one of our favorites. Since 2023, daily backups have dipped by 1%, while weekly and monthly backups have remained steady, which is encouraging. Additionally, there is a slight, but not statistically significant, increase of 1% in yearly and more-than-yearly backups. Notably, the percentage of people who have never backed up their data has decreased by 2%. 

For all the table enthusiasts, you’ll appreciate this detailed view showcasing how 2024 compares with previous years. We love to see Never down to an all-time low, although Daily took a slight dip. 

If you’re a visual person who appreciates vibrant pie charts for easier data digestion, here are pie charts comparing data from 2008 to 2024:

Within each population (business and consumer), the most striking data points are around the differences between backup and sync. Both consumers and businesses are leveraging cloud drive and sync services for ease of use, but that has not translated to successful data recoveries. With ransomware attacks on the rise, now more than ever, it’s essential to have a strong backup strategy. 

Still, we’ve come a long way since 2008, and the consumer data shows positive change over time around backup awareness and tool adoption. Going forward, we’ll be interested to see how the business audience data changes over time. See below for our full testing methodology, and, as always, drop us a line in the comment section if you have any questions or insights.

Consumer Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Backblaze from April 25-29, 2024, among 2,058 adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,877 own a computer. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval.  For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

Prior year’s surveys were conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Backblaze among U.S. adults ages 18+ who own a computer in April 25–27, 2023 (n=1,857) May 19–23, 2022 (n=1,861); May 12–14, 2021 (n=1,870); June 1–3, 2020 (n=1,913); June 6–10, 2019 (n=1,858); June 5–7, 2018 (n=1,871); May 19–23, 2017 (n=1,954); May 13–17, 2016 (n=1,920); May 15–19, 2015 (n=2,009); June 2-4, 2014 (n=1,991); June 13–17, 2013 (n=1,952); May 31–June 4, 2012 (n=2,176); June 28–30, 2011 (n=2,209); June 3–7, 2010 (n=2,051); May 13–14, 2009 (n=2,154); and May 27–29, 2008 (n=2,723).

Business Backup Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Backblaze from April 30 – May 8, 2024, among 300 IT Decision Makers. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval.  For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 5.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

For complete survey methodologies, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Backblaze.


About Yev

Yev Pusin is the senior director of Marketing and sometimes Marketing chief of staff at Backblaze, which he joined in 2011. Yev has a degree in business and communications from the University of Iowa, where he developed an alliteration affinity. Yev enjoys writing in an amusing way about the "why" of things and how decisions are made, so that readers can learn and be entertained all at once. Follow Yev on: Twitter: @YevP | LinkedIn: Yev Pusin