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Companies Unaware of the Data Loss Risk in Virtual Storage

40% surveyed said that they experienced at least one data loss event in the past 12 months within a virtualized environment
40% surveyed said that they experienced at least one data loss event in the past 12 months within a virtualized environment

This disconnect is of particular concern considering that the survey, from Kroll Ontrack, indicated that virtual storage has certainly crossed the chasm into the mainstream: 84% of corporations are using it, and nearly one-third of respondents have 75% to 100% of their current environment stored virtually. IT departments like the IaaS model because it reduces capital expenditures on in-house servers and maintenance, and allows them to move to an opex-based model that is usually more cost-efficient and offers less administrative overhead.

But, as noted, that convenience comes with a security price tag: Of those that store data in a virtual environment, 52% of corporations believe virtualization software decreases the chance of data loss, but 40% surveyed said that they experienced at least one data loss event in the past 12 months within a virtualized environment.

The issue is that relying on a third-party infrastructure, which is shared across hundreds of companies, introduces a scale and complexity not found in premise-based data storage solutions. Companies tend to think of using virtualization as being akin to locking valuables in a vault at the bank, but that’s just not the case.

“It is a common misconception that virtual environments are inherently safer than, or at less risk from data loss, than other storage media,” explained Paul Le Messurier, data recovery operations manager at Kroll Ontrack UK, in a statement. “Although virtual servers have redundancies built-in, increased complexity generally means more potential causes of data loss, including file system corruption, deleted virtual machines, internal virtual disk corruption, RAID and other storage/server hardware failures, and deleted or corrupt files contained within virtualized storage systems. The effects are also usually far more serious because the volume of data stored in a virtual environment is exponential to that stored on a single physical server or storage device.”

That 40% of companies experiencing data loss is actually down from 2011, when 65% reported lost data. But, the survey went on to reveal that only 33% of companies that experienced loss were able to recover 100% of their lost data in 2012, which represents a 21% decrease from 2011, when 54% were able to recover all of their data. That, of course, leaves a full 67% of respondents that were not able to get all their data back from their most recent data loss event.

“As the use of VMware has matured into a more mainstream infrastructure and it appears fewer data loss incidents are occurring, organizations are still experiencing these incidents,” said Phil Bridge, managing director, Kroll Ontrack UK. “The decreased ability to fully restore data proves that by not engaging an experienced data recovery service after a virtual environment data loss, the risk of permanent data loss increases.”

When asked about how organizations attempted recovery, the largest portion of respondents, 43%, actually rebuilt the data. Only one in four looked to a data recovery company.

Cloud risk assessment continues to provide a conundrum for companies: earlier this week a study from Skyhigh Networks showed that corporate security measures for blocking risky cloud apps are based on concerns related to productivity and bandwidth, or on familiarity with the service, as opposed to the actual risk of the services.

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