Worldwide, organizations hold about 2.2 zettabytes of data and spend about $1.1 trillion to secure and provide access to it, according to Symantec.

Those sky-high numbers about the amount of data and what's spent to hold it were based on the results of a survey of 4,056 information technology professionals at organizations in 38 countries for Symantec's "State of Information" survey. Published today, the survey found on average $38 million is being spent annually by larger enterprises, and $332,000 by small to midsize businesses (SMBs), to store and secure their business data. In all, 30% said they suffer from "information sprawl" as data is held outside the organization as well as inside it.

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Sean Regan, senior director of product marketing, at Symantec, notes that SMBs actually slightly more on a per-employee basis annually on information storage, security and management -- $3,670 per employee -- compared with the $3,297 per employee that enterprises spend each year. Economies of scale are often what account for that, he said.

Information is so important to all organizations, according to the survey, the 4,506 IT professionals said they believe it represents 49% of an organization's "total value."

But though business data is of critical worth, the IT professionals acknowledged the struggles they had in managing it.

In the past 12 months, 69% of them said their organizations had lost at least some of it or exposed confidential information. And 31% had "compliance failures," meaning they failed at some point to pass critical audits associated with compliance with data security and privacy regulations.

Another thing the survey found is that 42% of data is "duplicate." If it's duplicate, says Regan, this means they are paying to store copies that they may not really have to store and aren't applying de-duplication strategies as best as they might to hold down storage costs.

Today, about 75% of the business data is stored in-house and about 25% in the cloud, according to the Symantec survey. And in many cases, companies also appear to be have "barely utilized their storage," Regan says, making use of only 31% of what they've already bought. This low storage utilization rate of "31% inside the firewall and even lower (18%) outside," according to the survey, is somewhat surprising, Regan said. There appears to be a push to use cloud-based services for storage, but then not fully making use of what's paid for. Regan noted sometimes the IT staff personnel most responsible for storage management aren't being brought into the decisions that involve cloud storage. "It's being outsourced," he noted, adding that "the cloud is an easy button to push."

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

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