As more small-business employees share larger files, the security risk is growing, according to a Symantec survey.

As the prevalence of online sharing grows, small and midsize businesses are increasingly at risk due to employees adopting unmanaged, personal-use online file-sharing solutions without permission from IT, according to the findings of Symantec’s 2011 “SMB File Sharing Survey,” which is based on a survey of decision makers at 1,325 worldwide SMB organizations with 5 to 500 employees.

The report found that the use of these file-sharing services was indicative of the broader consumerization of IT trend, where personal devices and programs—as well as initiatives like bring your own device (BYOD), are blurring the lines between work and play and exposing small businesses to new types of security risks. SMB IT departments will need to find a middle path, the survey suggested, as nearly three-quarters (74 percent of respondents said they adopted online file sharing to bolster their own productivity.

In addition, it appears employees are strong drivers when it comes to adopting file-sharing solutions internally, on par with mobile device usage (63 percent), PC/laptop/tablet usage (64 percent) and social media usage (53 percent). The size of files employees share is also growing significantly: One in seven (14 percent) respondents reported the average size of files currently shared by their organization to be more than 1GB, while three years ago, only 6 percent reported the average file size to be more than 1GB.

Poorly managed file-sharing practices can bring risk factors into their organizations, the report indicated, with sharing confidential information using unapproved solutions (44 percent), malware (44 percent), loss of confidential or proprietary information (43 percent), breach of confidential information (41 percent), embarrassment or damage to brand/reputation (37 percent) and violating regulatory rules (34 percent) cited as the top security concerns.

Enforcement of file-sharing policy and risky file-sharing behavior could also expose small businesses to threats, according to survey results. More than one-fifth (22 percent) of respondents have not implemented policies restricting how employees can access and share files, and 27 percent of respondents said they would search online and download a free solution if they need to share a large file.

“A staggering 71 percent of small businesses that suffer from a cyber-attack never recover—it’s fatal,” Rowan Trollope, group president, of SMB and .cloud at Symantec said in a press statement. “As the fastest adopters of cloud technologies, such as file sharing, SMBs need to use safe practices, especially when using a solution that might not be built for businesses. As employees increasingly adopt consumer cloud services at work, the risk to SMBs only grows.”

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