Small Businesses Lack Disaster Preparedness for Virtual Servers

While virtualization is being widely implemented, it is often being done at the expense of availability and continuity of physical servers.

Virtualization can create potentially devastating gaps in disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) planning and operations, particularly for enterprise application availability, according to a survey of 252 IT professionals conducted by business IT continuity management specialist Neverfail.

While virtualization is being widely implemented, it is often being done at the expense of availability and continuity of physical servers, suggesting there are potential risks of virtualization if it is not factored into a comprehensive disaster recovery and business strategy. Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents believe virtual and physical servers carry the same level of downtime risk, and 14 percent said they believe their virtual servers carry a higher level risk of downtime.

Only 4 percent of businesses house all critical applications virtually, while 44 percent of businesses deploy their critical applications across both physical and virtual servers, and just under a quarter (24 percent) of businesses said they are still housing the majority of their critical apps on physical servers alone.

Worryingly, 70 percent of businesses only update their DR plan every one to five years, and one-third of businesses only test their DR plan once every 12 months, while 17 percent admit they never test their plans. This suggests there could be major issues facing a business when a disaster occurs, as 81 percent of businesses reported problems during their last DR testing. Eleven percent reported major problems or complete failure to work when they did test their plan.

"With today’s evolving and agile infrastructure, businesses need to do more than simply develop a BC/DR plan and hope disaster never strikes," Martin Mackay, CEO of Neverfail, said in a statement. "Moving to a fully virtualized environment doesn’t happen overnight. As a result, many applications live in a kind of limbo, with some components on physical servers and other in the cloud during the migration. The dynamic nature of virtualization, which offers benefits such as lower costs and increased automation, also makes it harder to keep DR plans up-to-date, putting critical operations at risk. The findings demonstrate that gaps exist, and in order to maintain continuous availability, businesses must take the proper steps to close them."

While the businesses surveyed said that, in an ideal world, the majority (63 percent) of their critical applications will be running on virtual servers one year from now, this dramatic shift in infrastructure will require additional planning necessary to ensure their DR plans remain up-to-date, and would actually prevent downtime in the event of a disaster.

Fully one-third (33 percent) of businesses said they do not have a unified disaster recovery plan and formalized service level targets that encompass both physical and virtual servers, and 39 percent of businesses surveyed said they need to use more than one management system in order to handle all necessary tasks. Of those, 63 percent find this dual-system management disruptive to their job.