Backup, High Availability, and VMware [Part 2]

Bottom line: virtualization doesn’t improve backup and data protection nor does it provide security without a whole lot of help from some type of backup system.

Of course, more details will be given… 🙂

As in my prior post, I’m referencing an excellent report by VMware titled The Benefits of Virtualization for Small and Medium Businesses – VMware SMB Survey Results.  In my last post before this one, I post that:

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.

Understanding the difference between security, backup, and high availability is incredibly important for SMBs adopting virtualization.  Let’s start with the basics.  As VMware notes in the executive summary of the document

Virtualization can also reduce the very real risks of IT outages and data loss for SMBs. Many SMBs have lost critical business data because of an accident, disaster or emergency; many of those have lost sales or customers as a result. Virtualization increases application availability and can dramatically shorten disaster recovery time, so it can significantly improve SMBs’ business continuity preparedness.

There is no doubt that virtualization can increase application availability.  What I tend to run into with SMB buyers is surprise when they discover that neither security nor data protection comes for free with virtualization.  The reasons for this are simple

  • While a virtual machine certainly is self-contained against viral attacks, a set of virtual machines in a high availability architecture are not protected against each other.  In fact, viral attacks are almost instantly spread among those virtual machines in a high availability architecture.  The partitioning between the virtual and physical machine gives absolutely no benefits in terms of security for the virtual machines.
  • While there are certainly techniques that VMware offers to decrease the load on a hosting physical machine when performing backup (VCB and now vStorage are both methods designed to offload backup processing), these are simply interfaces so that backup systems can protect data.

All too often an uninformed small business owner gets surprised that the high availability that they achieved using VMware or another virtualization product didn’t translate to a data protection when they were attacked virally or when they had a data corruption issue.  This is critically important, particularly when (referencing this VMware study) 67.4% of SMBs surveyed describe virtualization as having a positive impact on backup and data protection.


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