Virtualization won't save your data

Virtualization won't save your data

Summary: Some people believe that virtualization makes their data safer. They're wrong.


A new survey by Kroll Ontrack — a data recovery firm — found that 80 percent of companies believe that keeping data in a virtual environment either decreases or does not impact their chance of data loss. Yet, 40 percent of companies using virtual storage today lost data from those environments in 2012.

Furthermore, only 33 percent of the losers recovered 100 percent of their data. That means a quarter of the companies surveyed lost data they couldn't recover. Let's hope it was the third shift's MP3 collection and not anything important.

Kroll also found that half the companies believed virtualization reduces the chance of data loss. Now why would they believe that?

The Storage Bits take
Virtualization software is running on hardware that is subject to all manner of glitches. And it's running the same OS and apps that currently munge data on a regular basis.

Plus there's the virtualization layer of software which has its own bugs and management challenges. On the face of it there's no reason to believe data is safer on virtual machines than it is on real ones.

But hope springs eternal.

Companies might be getting better at managing virtual environments. Kroll found that in 2011, 65 percent of companies lost data stored virtually versus 40 percent last year. Or maybe they had a good year.

The bottom line is that data gets lost despite our best efforts in real machines, virtual machines and in the cloud. After all, the universe hates your data.

Comments welcome, of course. Any heinous virtual storage loss stories you care to share? Lessons learned?

Topics: Storage: Fear, Loss, and Innovation in 2014, Storage, Virtualization, Disaster Recovery

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  • Virtual vs non-virtual

    Curious what the stats for data loss are in non-virtualized environments. Are the expectations around data loss much different?
  • recovery

    It's just easier to recover data from a virtual environment
    • You must be in management.

      Only ignorant managers believe such ridiculous things, which they were told by some sales rep after a night out with them dining at Le Cirque, drinking Cristal, and getting lap dances afterward. So once the contract is signed, of course it's all good. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
      • Sometimes..

        It actually is MUCH easier. I can restore an entire virtual machine in minutes. In the old days you had to completely rebuild, re-install all software, re-configure, then restore data. Unless of course you had bare metal recovery tech. Which is fairly limited by hardware considerations. If your company has a storage area network you can restore whole environments from frozen blocks of data. Does that mean you don't have to back up your data and do regular disaster recovery testing? No. If you value your data and your job you still have to do that.
  • Do you work in this field?

    Do you just make comments off the cuff or do you actually work in the field? If so, I am constantly amazed at how many tech's heads are up their B___s. Have you truly tried to recover data from a live vs virtual environment. Have you tried to restore data (and I am not talking about a few docs/spreadsheets here and there) from a non functional machine that ran VM of some sort to a new machine whose architecture is totally different because you did't have an exact parallel system? It is getting annoying to see comments that have no basis for support. I guess the world is accepting idiots as staff or else every kid at home with a pc thinks they are a technician.
  • There is never a substitute for good backup procedures

    and by good, I mean tested. Backup AND restore that data just as if you *had to*.

    We use an imaging product on all of the VMs, but in addition to that, I have a file-based backup going on everything. If the image(s) fail to load/restore, its not very time consuming to create a new VM and restore from the data backups using standard, "non-VM" methods. Of course, if you've never tested and DOCUMENTED the process, you don't really know if your backup practices are any good.

    "the more things change, the more they stay the same"
    • Amen, brother.

      If it isn't backed up, it isn't safe. And as you note, if you don't know exactly how to test, verify and recover from your backups, you are still at risk.

      R Harris
  • recovery

    has new challenges - a damaged VHD file may mean that everything is lost. The reality is that with another layer in the process, the risk must be higher. However, virtualisation does bring the potential of mitigating data loss.

    As it happens, I have just experienced not a data loss, but some really strange bugs that could have resulted in a data loss. I had to rebuild my VM host server. Not a problem. I then put the client VMs (SBS2008 and Windows 2003 server) back. These have their own disks/disk partitions. Now, every night the host crashed. After several nights, I could correlate it with when the Windows 2003 VM did a backup. Disabled backups (making my virtualised data more safe, of course :-) and it was OK. Ran disk2VHD and got a crash again. Took the Windows 2003 system VHD and mounted it on another machine and ran chkdsk on it and found errors.

    Still haven't got quite to the bottom of it, but having seen the fact that even if the VHD file on the physical storage is OK, there can be errors in the virtual disk. What is really concerning me is that some form of client related error is crashing the host server.
  • Maths lesson

    0.33 * 0.4 = 0.132 and certainly NOT 0.25
    • Words + numbers

      Allis0: Of the 40% that lost data only 1/3rd of those recovered all their data.

      Therefore 0.66 * 0.4 = 0.264 did NOT recover all their data. I'm more interested in the percentage that did not recover all their data and I suspect most ZDNet readers are too.

      Yes, I had to read the PR a couple of times to get to the bottom line. But it is in there.
      R Harris
  • Thank God for the Pessimist

    Because we made good backups, everywhere.
  • Backups are worthless

    Here's how you know: I'll give you, free, the infrastructure to back up your entire business every 15 min. from now on, and I'll hire a 3rd party to verify your data every time, plus sign a contract which will give you $100K or more if even one thing is wrong with your data should it ever be restored. This will be a free service, from now on for as long as you own the business...

    Your first restore, however, will cost you $100K!

    Are you happy yet? Your answer proves the point.

    Virtualization makes it possible for PROFESSIONALS to reduce the chance for restore failure to a very small percentage. It doesn't eliminate it, because both Murphy & God have their laws, and no one can really get away with breaking either.

    NON-professionals cause restores to fail and data to be lost. That's always been true, for both physical & virtual computers. IMHO, articles like this miss the point, because virtualization definitely makes successful data recovery easier ... if you know what you're doing.