Virtualization causes disaster recovery rethink

Disaster Recovery plans used to be straight forward, until virtualisaztion came along.

There has been a "significant increase" in the number of organizations rethinking their disaster recovery (DR) plans because of virtualization, according to Symantec, in its fourth annual IT Disaster Recovery survey.

The survey found that due to the increasing popularity of virtualization, more than half of the respondents (55 percent) are rethinking their DR plans, and in North America, this rises to 64 percent.

"Virtualization has crept out from the developer test environments, where it was not part of the enterprise DR plan, and has made the shift into production environments," said Dr Guy Bunker, Symantec's chief scientist.

"In the old days, when you had one server running all the enterprise software, DR plans used to be straight forward," added Bunker. "Now the virtual server can be running up to 20 apps, and the server must have the capacity to handle it. DR processes have broken down because IT admins haven't thought of these issues."

Rather worryingly, 35 percent of respondents to the survey said that their virtual servers were not covered in their organizations' DR plans, and only 37 percent backup their virtual systems.

"Only 37 percent of people backup their virtual systems, which is a ridiculous stat," Bunker told Techworld. "The CIO will, quite rightly, tell the IT admin not to put a virtual machine in a data center if he can't back it up."

Bunker said that 33 percent of respondents blamed the lack of tools that will backup a virtual system in an automated fashion for the poor showing of those who backup their virtual environments. Meanwhile 54 percent said resource constraints were their top challenge with backing up virtual systems. 35 percent cited too many different tools as their biggest challenge in protecting data and applications.

"A virtual machine a great, big blob of a thing," Bunker said. "When you come to do a backup or restore, it is complex. But now you can automate backing up virtual machines on a granular layer, instead of the whole virtual machine."

"People look at virtualization, and they mainly think of consolidation of server boxes and reduced energy costs etc, but they don't think of the management cost," he added. "Management of virtual machines (especially when a user has moved away from a single supplier) is tough. But it doesn't mean that IT admins can shirk their responsibilities."

Bunker warns that if a virtual server fails, instead of it taking out just one or two applications, it could take offline up to 20 applications.

This is the fourth disaster recovery report from Symantec, and it surveyed more than 1,000 IT managers in large organizations across the UK, the rest of Europe, the US and Canada, as well as the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

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