Businesses in Europe could be missing out on sales worth up to £20 million a year because they do not have the ability to take full advantage of the data they collect.

This is according to research conducted by flash storage provider Pure Storage, which claimed more than half of companies (51 per cent) have missed out on an opportunity because they were not aware of it until it was too late.

Almost a third of respondents (31 per cent) stated they had experienced this at least once a year, while 19 per cent see such an occurrence multiple times a week. 

In many cases, businesses had access to the right data that would have given them an insight into the opportunity, but were unable process it in time to take advantage.

Vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Pure Storage James Petter commented: "The reason we're seeing these trends emerge is because it is now cheaper for businesses to retain the data they are collecting than to destroy it, so the volume of data a business holds is growing rapidly."

At the same time, he added it is becoming increasingly complicated and costly to access usable information fast enough to make a difference.

Nearly three-quarters of businesses (72 per cent) said they collect information that is never used, with almost half of these firms (48 per cent) putting this down to the fact that data processing is too time consuming. One in five also highlighted the expense of these activities as a challenge.

However, as the amount of information available grows, companies that are better able to process this and turn it into usable information that can influence decision-making will be in a much better position that those without these capabilities. This will be particularly true as in many cases, competitors will all have access to the same raw data from publicly-available sources.

Mr Petter said: "As companies gather more and more granular data on what they do, the potential to gain understanding and plan accordingly is not just a profitable undertaking, it is a necessity. Transformation is being forced on organisations at an ever-increasing pace. They must adapt to new ways of doing business, new markets and new practice, or die."

Among the concerns raised by businesses when it comes to making the most of their data is the regulatory burden placed upon them. Overall, one in ten respondents said their data processing efforts are held back by data protection worries.

Organisations in the UK were found to be particularly affected by such issues. Some 39 per cent of respondents in the country agreed that well-meaning regulations often have unforeseen negative consequences for their business.

However, this was not a view reflected elsewhere in Europe. In France, for example, 42 per cent of respondents stated data protection rules have actually helped their ability to do business, while German firms were also positive. 

Some 40 per cent of businesses in the country stated that there were no new regulations in their industry that affected their performance, and over a quarter (26 per cent) said that regulations aimed at a different industry had a positive impact on their activities.