According to new research, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) around the world are planning to adopt server virtualisation in 2012 at a faster pace than large enterprises. However, the survey also identified widespread backup and disaster recovery shortcomings for virtual servers amongst SMBs. Meanwhile, previous enthusiasm for cloud infrastructure has, at least so far, failed to turn into reality.

IT managers at 6,000 SMBs in 18 countries were surveyed. They predict that 29% of their servers will be virtualised by the end of the year, a growth rate of 21%. This is 50% higher than the pace identified in a recent Gartner report that predicted virtualisation adoption by enterprises is to increase by 14% over the same period.

In the UK, virtualisation adoption is predicted to increase by 63%, with virtual machines accounting for almost a third (31%) of SMB servers by the end of 2012. A mere 13% of organisations in the UK still have no virtual servers in their current IT infrastructure.

Virtual Data at Risk

According to the survey, UK SMBs cite increased efficiency, flexibility and speed of deployment as the main drivers for server virtualisation. However, despite the planned adoption of Virtual Machines (VMs), the survey identified widespread backup and disaster recovery shortcomings, including:

  • Over half (60%) of UK organisations admit that they don’t back up their VMs as often as their physical ones, making them the worst culprits globally
  • Over half (67%) of UK SMBs back up their VMs infrequently, typically weekly or monthly
  • Just 37% back up their VMs on a daily or weekly basis.

Although VMs seem to get short thrift in the backup and DR department, survey respondents claim that the monetary value of data hosted on virtual servers is almost identical to that hosted on physical servers.

Virtualisation has become more affordable and relatively easy for SMBs – the high growth rate of adoption should not be a surprise. However, as protecting data is one of the most fundamental requirements for any business today, it’s particularly disappointing that VMs get such poor treatment. Some businesses are potentially playing Russian roulette with their virtual backups and, if their luck runs out, will face very real and potentially very messy consequences.

A cloudy future?

When asked about cloud adoption, the vast majority of UK organisations (85%) surveyed have some form of cloud-based IT infrastructure. As a specific category, cloud now represents a sizeable 20% of all IT infrastructure.

However, only 20% of UK businesses are using the cloud today, despite in last year’s survey 50% predicting that usage would increase during 2011. SMBs cited several reasons for their less-than-expected cloud usage, including concerns about recovery of data in the event of a disaster, non-compliance with data protection, bandwidth bottlenecks and workload and complexity.

2012 cloud usage predictions seem far more grounded with just over one in four (29%) anticipating that more than 50% of their IT infrastructure will be cloud-based in 2012. UK SMBs say that cloud adoption this year will be driven by three factors: lower IT operating costs, fewer personnel and management resources and improved reliability of backups. Other cloud findings include:

  • Using the cloud for offsite backup is becoming a popular choice with almost a fifth (17%) using it for this purpose
  • Half (50%) of UK organisations still rely on the traditional approach of physically taking backup tapes or disk offsite each day
  • Over a third (35%) of UK companies still don’t have an offsite backup strategy in place at all.