Just before the holidays, VMware released an interesting press release based on a survey they did entitled VMware Survey Shows Improving Application Availability and Data Protection are Among the Top Benefits of Virtualization for SMBs (note: a link to the actual survey is embedded in the press release.)  The major points of the survey were

  • The top IT initiatives for 2010 are improving security (61%), data backup & protection (52%), maintaining current infrastructure (42%), reducing energy use (39%), and business continuity & disaster recovery (39%).
  • The top business goals for 2010 are retaining key employees (81%), controlling costs (81%), finding new customers (79%), retaining current customers (77%), and increasing productivity (77%).
  • 33% of SMBs have had an IT systems outage within the past two years and 21% has lost critical business data as a result of an accident or disaster. Of those, 62% have lost sales or customers as a result.
  • 47% of SMBs have a business continuity plan that has been updated in the past two years, or have a detailed data backup and retention policy – even though retaining current customers was ranked as a highly important business goal by 77%.
  • The areas in which the most SMBs who implemented virtualization reported significant improvements were time spent on routine IT administrative tasks (73%), application availability (71%), ability to respond to changing business needs (68%), backup and data protection (67%), business continuity preparedness (67%), and company profitability and growth rate (67%).

From the perspective of backup and recovery, what do all the numbers mean?

There’s a continuing voracious need for basic data backup and protection.  The terms “security”, “data backup and protection”, and “business continuity and disaster recovery” have all been used at one time or another to describe what is in essence backup.  The more advanced SMBs understand the fundamental difference between backup, high availability, and security; however, in general there is confusion among those terms.  The bottom line is that there’s an understanding that this stuff is important for customer and employee retention, retaining current customers, and increasing productivity.

One of the things we find is that small and medium businesses which take their first step into virtualization, typically with a free or almost free product such as ESXi or Hyper-V, are incredibly pleased with the results.  As they increase the number of virtual machines, however, they soon begin to understand the trade-offs with respect to complexity and resource contention.  Of course, the virtualization vendors (led by VMware) have tools for handling  these issues that may be purchased.  And therein lies the rub.

SMBs that are pursuing virtualization need to understand the value proposition and monetization strategies of the virtualization vendors.  With respect to lowering total cost of ownership, virtualization is an incredibly important strategy.  However, SMBs need to make sure that in pursuing virtualization that they understand the other leverage points of vendors for increasing their share of wallet at the expense of the SMB.  It’s also important to realize that virtualization vendors look at the key purchase criteria of their customers (the IT initiatives and business goals) and craft their messages accordingly.  Thus it’s convenient for virtualization vendors to blur the differences among security, backup, and high availability.

It’s critical for the success of SMBs that they understand precisely those differences…for the sake of their goals of retaining customers and lowering their operational costs.

More on this in my next post.