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Confidential Information at Greatest Risk in New Businesses

Bad information management practices leave fledgling business over exposed to risk

Businesses under five years old are twice as likely to compromise the confidentiality of sensitive information than more established businesses. This is one of the findings of recent research into information management and security practices in the mid-market, commissioned by leading storage and information management services company Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM).

The in-depth study of mid-market businesses across Europe and North America found that staff at recently established organisations expose their businesses to information risk because they are less careful with critical business data. Nearly half (48%) of those surveyed admitted they had left sensitive documents lying about the office, had mislaid them completely or had lost them in a public place. This is twice as many as staff at more established firms, where fewer than one in four (23%) had made similar information management mishaps.

Younger businesses are considerably less clear on how long they are legally required to retain documents such as tax records, contracts and customer data, making these organisations more likely to put the safety of this information at risk. For example, more than half (51%) of business professionals at companies between one and five years old admitted they could be keeping sensitive human resource records beyond their retention deadline, exposing the business to the threat of reputational damage and fines from information regulators. This is compared with just 20% at firms with more than 25 years in business.

Yet young firms are doing little to address the situation, preferring instead to prioritise expansion into new markets (80%) or product development (54%). The majority (76%), for example, have no plans in place to automate key information management processes such as HR. They are also less adept than older firms at managing data protection procedures or extracting value from their information. When asked about their processes for regulatory compliance in data handling, just a third (32%) of respondents at firms under five years old said their processes are “relevant and easy to comply with”. By comparison, 46% of respondents at firms aged 25 years and over said the same. Similarly, just over a quarter (28%) of those at younger firms said they have effective processes in place to monitor where their information is most valuable, compared to two fifths (40%) of respondents at older businesses.

Elizabeth Bramwell, director at Iron Mountain said, “The first five years of a business’s life are often dedicated to rapid growth as the organisation establishes itself in the market. The start-up phase is a busy one, so it’s perhaps understandable that information management mistakes are more likely to happen during this time. However, whether you’re a new or an established business the law is the law, so it’s vital that confidential information is protected. If bad information habits are left unchecked and effective processes aren’t put in place, young businesses face severe legal and reputational consequences that could fast erode customer confidence and threaten the very survival of the business.”

Previous research from Iron Mountain and PWCi suggests that many mid-market companies experience an ‘information epiphany’ when the products or services with which they launched the business start to approach their end-of-life, which normally happens around the five to seven years stage.ii According to this research, over a third (38 per cent) of younger firms don’t know how information flows through the business, compared to 22 per cent of those aged six and over. To take a more mature approach to handling and harnessing the value of information, young businesses need to put effective information management processes in place from the start, which can then become part of their company culture as they grow.

For more information, insight and advice, read the research report:

About the research

The research was undertaken for Iron Mountain by Opinion Matters, who surveyed a total of 4,006 workers in companies with between 250 – 3,000 employees (250-5,000 in North America) across the UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and North America.

Respondents were drawn from the manufacturing, engineering, insurance, financial services, legal, pharmaceutical and energy sectors, with job roles in HR, legal, IT, MD/CXOs, procurement, sales, marketing, facilities / office managers, admin including PAs and secretarial roles, and people deemed responsible for managing information. The research was conducted via online interviews and undertaken in April and May 2016.

Founded in 2000, Opinion Matters is a London based award-winning insight agency, providing international consultancy and market research solutions.

About Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain Incorporated® (NYSE: IRM) is the global leader in storage and information management services. Trusted by more than 220,000 organizations around the world, Iron Mountain’s real estate network comprises more than 85 million square feet across more than 1,400 facilities in 46 countries dedicated to protecting and preserving what matters most for its customers. Iron Mountain’s solutions portfolio includes records management, data management, document management, data centers, art storage and logistics, and secure shredding, helping organizations to lower storage costs, comply with regulations, recover from disaster, and better use their information. Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain stores and protects billions of information assets, including critical business documents, electronic information, medical data and cultural and historical artifacts. Visit for more information.

iIron Mountain and PwC surveyed 1,800 senior business leaders across a broad range of sectors (energy, financial services, legal services, manufacturing and engineering, healthcare (US only) insurance, pharmaceuticals), in North America (US and Canada) and five European countries (France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK).
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Media Contacts

Rebecca Hannan

Marketing Manager UKI

Meghan Windle

FleishmanHillard for Iron Mountain

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