More than a fifth of employees stores corporate files on memory sticks, despite the risk to security, new research has found.

A survey of 300 employees across the UK and Ireland found that nearly half – 49% - stored work material “in multiple locations”, with 21% holding it on portable USB memory sticks.

Another 14% of employees said they stored corporate material on a laptop hard drive, with 9% admitting that they kept work-related material on non-work owned personal devices, the research by Dynamic Market for enterprise content management company, Tower Software found.

Lost and stolen laptops have been at the heart of a string of recent corporate data security breaches. Last month, HM Revenue and Customs became the latest high profile organisation to lose customer data after the theft of a laptop from an employee’s car.

The survey also found that 8% of staff were storing work files on portable hard drives and 7% on mobile devices such as PDAs or smart phones.

Paul Brenchley, EMEA vice-president for Tower Software said: “Despite the meteoric rise in mobile working and popularity of mobile devices, I’m surprised that these figures are so high. It seems that warnings about corporate security, compliance and information control simply aren’t registering with many employees.

“The use of memory sticks for example, will leave many organisations in breach of their security contracts that forbid them in corporate buildings - or any other location with a corporate IP address.”

He added that poor storage practices were not only a regulatory compliance risk, but also hit day to day work practice, frustrating colleagues, losing customers and risking bad publicity.