Many SMBs Struggling With Virtualization: Survey

That's the takeaway from a recent Symantec-commissioned survey of 658 businesses worldwide, which ranged in size from 5 to 240 employees and spanned a variety of industries. The survey, conducted in May by Applied Research and published by Symantec on Wednesday, shows that 70 percent of respondents are actively considering server virtualization, as defined by consolidating workloads onto fewer servers.

However, just 10 percent of these firms have completed their virtualization plans, according to the survey data. "It still feels like the early days of a journey," said Kevin Rowney, director of breach response at Symantec, in a recent interview.

Server virtualization kingpin VMware often points to the trend of more organizations virtualizing database, CRM, ERP and other mission critical applications. CEO Paul Maritz recently cited industry analyst predictions that 50 percent of workloads industry-wide will be running in virtual environments by the end of the year.

But the Symantec-commissioned survey data indicates that this trend hasn't yet materialized in the SMB space. According to the survey data, just 24 percent of SMB respondents have virtualized mission critical applications, while 37 percent have virtualized productivity applications such as email and calendar.

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Rowney said performance, backup and security are the most commonly cited obstacles for SMBs, and the complexity of handling these IT functions is putting a crimp on the server virtualization adoption rate. "Three tiered computing environments do not virtualize simply," he said. "And if they crash, you have to make sure things come back up in the right order."

According to the survey, a majority of SMBs aren't backing up data in virtual server environments on a regular basis. Just 15 percent of respondents said they always back up data on virtual servers, while 23 percent either do so sporadically or not at all, the survey data shows.

In explaining their failure to adhere to a regular backup schedule, 23 percent of survey respondents cited staffing issues, while 53 percent pointed to budgetary concerns.

It's a similar story when it comes to securing data in virtual environments: 40 percent of survey respondents said their virtual servers are "completely" secured, while 20 percent said their virtual servers are "somewhat" protected. Within this 60 percent, 74 percent aren't employing endpoint protection, 48 percent aren't using a firewall and 78 percent aren't using antivirus, according to the survey data.

Although Symantec sells both security and backup software for virtual server environments, Rowney noted that the Symantec-commissioned survey isn't intended to spread fear or panic, but rather, to rationally lay out the consequences of not backing up and securing data in virtual server environments.

"Virtual environments often have patchwork security, and they're not getting the coverage they need," said Rowney. "A major data loss event for a small business could be very serious."