If the global pandemic has taught companies anything, it's that being ready when the unexpected happens can pay off. In the business context, this lesson is often truest when it comes to data storage and disaster recovery plans. Given that data and digitization are increasingly at the heart of companies' operations, protecting the information held in servers with flexible infrastructure such as storage virtualization is important for mitigating disruption and maintaining business continuity.
Physical on-site data storage is vulnerable to everything from natural disasters to national and local emergencies that prevent employees from entering business premises and accessing the information and tools they need. Depending on the severity of the disaster, data may not be accessible for several hours or several days—or, in a worst-case scenario, it may be destroyed altogether. The Acronis Cyber Protection Week 2020 survey found that while 43% of IT professionals reported losing data or devices, only 20% said they backed up to both the cloud and locally, meaning the data lost could be irretrievable.
Virtualizing storage can mitigate risk and protect day-to-day operations by putting a virtual protective layer around a data storage facility, storing and backing up everything important in the cloud to be accessed when needed.
What is storage virtualization?
Storage virtualization, also known as software-defined storage, is a cloud-based system that decouples the physical hardware from its logical representation. Or as the Storage Networking Industry Association defines it: "The application of virtualization to storage services or devices for the purpose of aggregating functions or devices, hiding complexity, or adding new capabilities to lower level storage resources."
What this means is that data is located in a wide range of storage facilities, but it appears in a single storage system. Business data is, therefore, more protected because it is not located in one place where it could be compromised by a fire or another disaster, resulting in a (potentially permanent) loss of integral information. Additionally, as the system is virtualized and often connected to the cloud, employees can access it remotely.
What are the benefits of storage virtualization?
A key benefit of software-defined storage is, of course, protecting an organization's core data by not piling it into one physical location but spreading it across several places. If disaster does strike, company data can be accessed remotely and seamlessly through the internet. However, there are other benefits as well.
According to a 2020 survey of 530 IT decision-makers in businesses across North America and Europe by IT community site Spiceworks, among emerging virtualization technologies, the most common is storage virtualization, with a 40% adoption rate. The research finds that more than 50% of businesses plan to use the technology and application virtualization by 2021. The reasons most cited for potential adoption are:
- More flexibility with storage infrastructure (47%).
- Improved manageability of storage (46%).
- Improved storage performance (45%).
Software-defined storage can help the administrator perform backup tasks, archiving and recovery more easily and efficiently by doing it automatically and disguising the complexity of the storage network area, presenting it as one. It can minimize operating costs by reducing how many in-house servers are needed. This, in turn, means fewer people to look after and servers to manage.
It also offers flexibility. Under such a data storage and recovery system, information that is particularly valuable or frequently accessed can be stored in high-performance storage, while less frequently accessed data can be kept in less expensive storage. Furthermore, thanks to the cloud, transitioning from working in the office to working from home is seamless, and there are no limitations on data access. Collaboration can continue even if colleagues are not face-to-face. Additionally, a virtual storage system reduces the potential for data to get stuck in silos and not be easily shared.
Software-defined storage also offers scalability. New capacity can be added rapidly as business needs change. Furthermore, because virtualization is continually operating in the background, it can also reduce downtime during migration processes.