Small businesses challenged by virtualization

Not only are limited IT skills holding small businesses back from deploying virtualized servers, the data of those that have migrated lacks even the most basic security protection

Small businesses may have a strong interest in virtualization, but they are still a long way from effectively adopting it. In fact, according to a new study by Symantec Corp, as they attempt to implement server virtualization, many are actually putting their data at risk.

The 2011 Small Business Virtualisation Poll found that most small businesses are not taking even the most basic steps to secure and protect their virtual environments.

“Despite what many may think, small businesses are evaluating how virtualization can benefit their organisations,” said Symantec Corp strategy and marketing vice president, Steve Cullen.

“However, whether or not small businesses are ready to make the transition, it’s critical that they always secure and protect their data, no matter what type of environments they have.”

70 per cent of respondents to the study said their organisations are considering virtualization. Not surprisingly, financial benefits ranked highest among reasons to adopt server virtualization. Reduced capital expenditure was cited by 70 per cent, while 68 per cent said reduced operating expense would drive their decisions to deploy virtualization. Other benefits cited included the ability to use fewer servers for the same number of applications (67 per cent) and improved server scalability (65 per cent).

Unfortunately, limited IT skills are holding many small businesses back. Despite their interest, they are finding it difficult to move from discussions to execution.

Only 10 per cent of respondents had deployed virtualized servers and they were focusing their early efforts on simpler, less critical application areas. Top challenges they face include performance, (60 per cent), backup (56 per cent) and security and patch management (56 per cent). Nearly a third of small businesses not now planning virtualization cited lack of experience as a factor.

Arguably the most alarming finding was that as small businesses migrate to virtual environments, they do not protect and secure their data. Only 15 per cent always back up their virtualized servers and 23 per cent backup infrequently or not at all.

Compounding the problem is that they are not doing any better in securing their data; only 40 per cent are completely secured. Respondents blamed budget and staffing issues for preventing them from taking these steps.

According to the study, even those who said they are somewhat or completely secure are, in fact, less secure than they think. A staggering 78 per cent do not have anti-virus on their virtual servers, 48 per cent don’t have a firewall, and 74 per cent forego endpoint protection.

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