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Misperceptions about data loss risk in virtual environments

Server RoomKroll Ontrack recently conducted research amongst VMware users to gauge perceptions about virtualisation and the issue of data recovery.  In this, the first post about the findings of this research, it is revealed that most organisations fail to implement and test disaster recovery or business continuity plans when they move into a virtual world.  This is a serious oversight when one considers the surge of information being transferred into virtual environments – and the impact that losing it can have on the reputation and financial performance of a company.

Three findings stood out from a Kroll Ontrack survey, which was completed by 338 IT professionals at a recent VMworld conference.  The first issue relates to the perceived risk of data loss in a virtualised world.

According to the survey results, 37% of respondents believe that virtualisation significantly decreases the chances of data loss.  In reality, the chance of minimising data loss is only possible if data backups are performed correctly and tested carefully.  Otherwise, the impact of data loss is greater than in a non-virtualised environment, since a data disaster in a virtualised world can bring down many servers that share the same storage.

Surprisingly, 20% of respondents believe that virtualisation doesn’t affect the chance of data loss at all.  Are they not responsible for backups/data recovery?  This suggests that the complexity of virtualised systems is not fully understood. Data loss is always a potential issue, regardless of what IT infrastructure is used.

In a virtualised environment the most important component is the data and this is the only thing that does not get virtualised.  Users can reconstruct and recreate any other component in a virtual environment within seconds and with just a few clicks, but this cannot be done with the data that is created in one’s virtual environment.  Therefore, while businesses can make savings everywhere else in a virtual environment they should consider spending more money protecting the data when they move to a virtual environment.

Of course, this seems to go against what virtualisation is about, which is saving money.  But up-front investment to protect data is more important in order to avoid even costlier lapses in data availability and data loss down the line.  At a minimum, companies should rigorously back-up and test data availability in all IT environments, and implement a data protection policy that includes the details of a trusted data recovery company that employees can turn for consultation when disaster strikes.

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