Businesses are keener than ever to roll out data encryption, but are still struggling with the complexity of key management, a new survey has concluded.

The survey was carried out by UK encryption specialist nCipher, sampling 237 "decision makers" at large enterprises across the globe.

The main problem appears to be key management with nine percent of those surveyed having more than 10,000 keys on servers, and 11 percent having the same number on desktops. Further down the scale, 16 percent had 1,000 keys on servers, with almost a quarter having the same number of desktops.

Underscoring this issue, 31 percent of managers with 500 or more keys in their organisations admitted they knew little or nothing about available key management systems.

More encouragingly, the survey found that encryption is rapidly becoming a mainstream technology, with its use now mandated across a wide range of applications. Drivers included government legislation, and private sector date protection standards developed by groups such as the Payment Card Industry (PCI).

Popular applications for encryption included traditional ones such as web-based SSL and VPNs as well as newer concerns to secure "data-at-rest" and ensure that it hadn’t been tampered with. A hefty 82 percent said they would be using encryption to secure stored data within 18 months, with 69 percent saying they intended to do use such security to ensure data integrity using time-stamps and right management systems within the same period.

One major area of future growth is the use of Trusted Platform Modules (TPMs), hardware-based systems used to restrict access to hard drive data on laptops and PCs. This technology is still in its infancy, and the survey found a degree of ignorance about the systems. TPM is a technology that will be supported in the next version of Windows, Vista.

A free copy of the survey can be downloaded here [pdf].