Users who don't back up data got a wake-up call when the "I Love You" virus hit corporations and government agencies around the world.
The virus destroyed JPEG and MP3 files and other multimedia files, and it's only a matter of time until a virus nails mission-critical files, analysts, security experts and eight information technology professionals said last week.
Most at risk may be telecommuters and other mobile workers who, IT managers say, are prone to neglecting to back up their hard drives.
"Users are getting the message, but most of the time they don't follow it," said Ira Winkler, president of the Internet Security Advisors Group in Severna Park, Maryland. "By the time they need to do it, they've had some kind of disaster."
According to International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts, twice as much data is stored on desktops than is stored centrally within an organization. However, 45% of corporate desktops and mobile PCs are never backed up, and only 27.3% are backed up once a week or more.
Despite the risks, analysts and users said they forgo backups because they take too long - up to an hour per user.
But some companies use automated backup software.
An automated backup system called Backup Exec from Veritas Software Corp. in Mountain View, California, proved its mettle at Fleishman-Hillard Inc., a St.
Louis-based public relations firm with 45 offices and 2,000 users worldwide.
"I'm so glad [backups are done], or I would be out of a job," said Kathy Forrester, senior vice president of Fleishman's IT department. The agency lost 4,000 JPEG files to the "I Love You" virus in St. Louis and hundreds of files in each satellite office, Forrester said. Her team restored the files from tape backups.
However, not all companies appreciate the financial worth of backing up data.
Instead, they're more interested in managing employees and hitting deadlines, said Maria Schaefer, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut.
Analysts and users said they were dumbfounded as to why companies haven't committed resources to do data backups.
"Data is a vital function of businesses - if you lose data, you lose everything," Forrester said. Some companies "don't understand how important [data] is" and don't see its value in financial terms, said Robert Stark, a database administrator and systems architect at ProxyMed Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In the end, though, users probably won't learn much from this latest outbreak, according to analysts and users.
"People's memories are short-lived, and [the "I Love You" virus] won't do much to change their behavior," said Dr. Robert Cecil, network director at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland.