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Symantec Virtualization Survey
Symantec Research Reveals Fewer Executives Involved in Planning; IT Managers Remain Pessimistic on Recovery Times

Virtualization driving reevaluation of plans; automation and cross-platform tools needed
Virtualization is the major factor that is causing more than half (55 percent) of respondents globally -- 64 percent in North America -- to reevaluate their DR plans. In some cases virtualization is being deployed for DR purposes and applications and data in virtual environments pose a difficult challenge since processes for physical environments may not work in virtual environments. In addition, native DR tools in virtual environments are immature and don't provide the enterprise-class protection that organizations require. The respondents reported that 35 percent of their virtual servers are not currently covered in organizations' DR plans, and only 37 percent of respondents reported that they back up all of their virtual systems.

Fifty-four percent of respondents listed resource constraints as their top challenge with backing up virtual systems, which points to the need for simplification and automation. Globally, 35 percent of respondents cited too many different tools as the biggest challenge in protecting mission-critical data and applications within physical and virtual environments. Complications with having different tools for physical and virtual environments include higher training costs, operating inefficiencies, greater software costs and workforces that work in silos. Lack of automated recovery and insufficient backup tools came in close second, each with 33 percent.

Respondents report one-third of disaster recovery tests unsuccessful
According to survey data, while having a disaster recovery plan is essential in most organizations today, knowing that disaster recovery plans work is equally important. In 2007, 88 percent of IT professionals polled carried out a probability and impact assessment for at least one threat. In 2008, that number increased to 98 percent of respondents indicating that they have carried out an assessment for at least one threat. However, respondents report that 30 percent of tests fail to meet recovery time objectives (RTOs) with an average global RTO of 9.54 hours.

Respondents also reported the top reasons why their tests failed include: human error (35 percent); technology failure (29 percent); insufficient IT infrastructure (25 percent); out-of-date plans (24 percent) and inappropriate processes (23 percent). Since human error is the greatest problem hindering successful recoveries, organizations should look to automation that will speed recovery and reduce errors and reliance on personnel.

In addition, 93 percent of IT organizations report they have tested their disaster recovery plan since it was created, yet 30 percent of those tests are not fully successful -- improved from 50 percent failed tests in 2007 -- and only 16 percent say that tests have never failed.

Disaster recovery testing impacts sales and revenue
The study showed that approximately 47 percent of organizations test their DR plans either only once a year or less due to disruption to the business and lack of resources. Reasons cited include: Lack of staff availability (39 percent), disruption to employees (39 percent), budgetary issues (37 percent) and disruption to customers (32 percent). In addition, 21 percent admit DR testing could impact sales and revenue. In fact, those in Asia and EMEA are less likely to test their DR plans, with 12 percent of respondents in EMEA and 8 percent in Asia Pacific reporting that they never test their DR plans.

While survey results indicate that the IT industry has demonstrated some improvements in successful DR testing over the past year, only 31 percent of respondents report that they could achieve baseline operations within one day if a significant disaster occurred that destroyed their main data center. And, only three percent of respondents said they could have baseline operations within 12 hours and nearly half (47 percent) reported that it would take a full week to achieve 100 percent normal operations.

"While the research identifies a significant improvement in DR testing in the industry, we are concerned that organizations are not testing more frequently to improve their plans, and are not using adequate tools to reduce the overall business impact," said Mark Lohmeyer, vice president of Symantec's Veritas Cluster Server Group. "Virtualization is obviously changing the game for disaster recovery and organizations should involve IT executives in the process of reevaluating their DR plans and then implement best practices and solutions that ensure confidence in a successful and rapid return to full operations in the event of a disaster."

Recommendations
Symantec recommends that enterprises implement a holistic data protection solution across virtual environments, remote offices, desktops, laptops, servers, applications and databases that can quickly recovery vital data and systems in the event of a disaster. In addition, consolidating on a single management tool that manages both physical and virtual environments will also help reduce the number of tools needed.

Symantec also recommends that organizations implement automated solutions that minimize human involvement and address other weaknesses in their DR plans to help to reduce downtime. Finally, using solutions that provide testing tools that minimize the impact of testing on customers is also recommended, so that organizations can test without affecting business processes, customers and employees.

About Virtualization News
SYS-CON's Virtualization News Desk trawls the news sources of the world for the latest details of virtualization technologies, products, and market trends, and provides breaking news updates from the Virtualization Conference & Expo.

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