Emergency responseVirtualization is important for back up and recovery

Published 2 September 2008

Server virtualization, that is, the separation of functionality from the underlying hardware, offers organizations many advantages in preparing for coping with and recovering from disasters, but it is not a panacea

A new tool, or approach, which aims to help organizations cope with and recover from disasters is server virtualization, that is, the separation of functionality from the underlying hardware. Virtualization offers many advantages, but, according to a Symantec survey, there is a decided downside to this approach. Carl Weinschenk writes in IT Business Edge that the survey, which looked at the opinions of 1,000 organizations, revealed that a lot is slipping through the virtual cracks. The firm found that 35 percent of virtual servers are not included in their firm’s disaster recovery planning, according to the internetnews.com story on the survey. The piece said only 37 percent of respondents said they backed up more than 90 percent of their virtual servers. When companies virtualize, only 64 percent reassess and, if necessary, adjust their backup and disaster recovery plans.

A reason may be the lack of adequate tools: Symantec found that there are too many management tools and not enough of them are automated. What is available, then, despite the number, is inadequate.

Weinschenk writes that despite these issues, virtualization is an important road to disaster recovery, and he highlights this executive summary of a white paper which, instead of focusing on the dangers outlined by Symantec, positions virtualization as an valuable aid to disaster recovery. The takeaway is that savvy virtalization can provide far more flexibility and quicker responses in case of an emergency, and that it can cut costs. David Demlow, the CTO of Double-Take, agrees, telling IT Business Edge in April that virtualization makes it unnecessary to buy standby machines.

Readers may also want to read this DABCC paper, which comes out in favor of virtualized disaster recover. While the writer says disaster recovery is one of the key drivers for corporate adoption of virtualization, it adds that it is not a panacea. After making the case for virtualization, the writer dives into some details. Using VMware’s ESX for illustrative purposes, he lists eleven steps that must be manually accomplished for virtual machine recovery. He notes the difficulty of automating these steps but says that VMware industry dominance has enabled it to achieve a high level of automation in its Site Recovery Manager product.

Weinschenk concludes that small businesses face many of the same decisions regarding virtualization. The key difference, however, is that in many cases they will lack the expertise and manpower to make such drastic and basic changes to their infrastructure. He notes, for example, that one blogger listed backup and disaster recovery before mentioning resource consolidation and infrastructure gains as advantages virtualization brings to small businesses. He says that virtualization provides the ability to make server resources, which now are handled as files, more portable and that it is easier to create a disaster recovery process around them.