Most common cause of SMB downtime? The answer may surprise you

While natural disasters have a way of convincing small businesses to reconsider their backup and recovery plans, human error and system failures are far more common.

While natural disasters often inspire small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to reconsider their data backup and recovery strategies, they aren't the most common cause of downtime.

Hardware and software failures, and human error are far more common, according to data compiled by disaster recovery vendor Quorom from an analysis of its global customer base.

Hardware failure is the biggest culprit, representing about 55 percent of all downtime events at SMBs, while human error accounts for about 22 percent of them, according to its analysis. That compares with about 5 percent for natural disasters.

It takes an average of 30 hours to recover from failures, which can be devastating for a business of any size.

"In the case of hardware failure, most people have faith that their system will failover, saving them from system downtime. Unfortunately, this is not always the case," said Randy Mateo, an IT manager at California Bankers Association, commenting on the Quorum analysis. "Recovery after hardware failures can take especially long, so it's particularly important to deploy a disaster recovery solution that gets employees working again in minutes, rather than days."

Mateo is speaking from first-hand experience.

In 2010, a multiple hard drive failure on his organization's storage area network (SAN) managed to corrupt California Bankers' virtual servers and all the data on them. His team was able to recover many of the files from its manual backups, but that took almost four days. The experience convinced the organization to invest in a new strategy that combined cloud storage with on-site hardware.

SAN failures are one of the most common forms of hardware "disasters" among SMBs.

Of course, Quorum's interest in this topic is self-interested. It sells a hybrid recovery solution that uses appliances along with cloud services to help SMBs avoid downtime. 

The infographic below summarizes its data.

Quorum 2013 Disaster Recovery Report Infographic FINAL