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Virtual Backup Challenges Enterprise IT

Organizations remain challenged when it comes to ensuring data is adequately protected and recoverable, even though advances have been made in backup and data protection technology, industry observers say. Among the reasons cited are that data protection processes don't get reviewed frequently enough, there are few SLA requirements, and there is a lack of visibility into the results of data protection activities.

Organizations remain challenged when it comes to ensuring data is adequately protected and recoverable, even though advances have been made in backup and data protection technology, industry observers say. Among the reasons cited are that data protection processes don't get reviewed frequently enough, there are few SLA requirements, and there is a lack of visibility into the results of data protection activities.

Add to the mix the growing popularity of virtualized servers, which has created new challenges for IT in achieving "optimal backup and recovery, including increased overhead of managing multiple backup applications, monitoring and managing capacity use in data stores, mitigating risk of unprotected workloads, and somehow ensuring that backup operations won't kill the performance of the host machines,'' says Nancy Hurley, president and CEO of Bocada, a data protection services provider.

More than 80% of respondents to an Enterprise Strategy Group research study indicated virtual backup was a top IT challenge. Some 60% of respondents to the study, which was conducted at the end of last year, said data protection for virtual servers was their most significant challenge or was among their top five problems. "The responses suggest that as virtual machines [VMs] proliferate, data protection will require greater business and IT alignment to achieve efficiency, minimize risk, and increase satisfaction of stakeholders and clients,'' says Hurley, who previously was a senior analyst at ESG.

While there is no question VMs reduce the capital costs of servers and the costs of power consumption, she says, there are "hidden costs associated with protecting them that organizations must be aware of for budget and operational planning purposes."

Administrative costs have the potential to increase when managing VM data protection and recovery activities. Users should not assume virtual instances can be protected in the same manner as physical machines, and, as a result, organizations need to adopt new, virtual machine-specific backup applications. The ESG study found that 62% of respondents are already using separate applications for each operation.

"Different applications mean different policies, schedules and different management needs in each environment,'' says Hurley. "This alone will add an additional administrative burden on the backup team [if backup will be centralized]."

Because research indicates that organizations are looking to increase the ratio of VMs on each host, "eventually the sheer number of VMs that need to be protected will increase housekeeping tasks, increasing administrative costs,'' she notes. "Add to that the complexities of managing a very dynamic VM environment, and not only do costs increase, but so do the risks of data not being recoverable."

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