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10/18/2011
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SMBs Moving Slower On Virtualization

Symantec survey shows understanding of benefits, but a reluctance to move as quickly as enterprises have.

Do many SMBs think virtualization is a big company's game, intended for enterprises with vast server farms? According to a new survey by Symantec, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) understand the core benefits of virtualization, but the majority have not acted on that knowledge yet.

The survey showed that while 70% of SMBs surveyed are interested in virtualization, only 10% of them have deployed it. The disconnect may be explained by the fact that many SMBs are grappling with how to implement virtualization, such as how to measure performance and how to perform backup, security, and patch management. Basically, the worry is how to manage in a virtual environment what they have managed in a physical environment for years.

The survey, conducted for Symantec by Applied Research in May by polling 658 smaller businesses in 28 countries, concluded that while virtualization has been an established trend for more than a decade (VMware started in 1998), the market is still in the early stages of development, particularly for SMBs. Cloud computing, by contrast, could actually be a simpler concept to grasp if one considers software as a service from Salesforce or other vendors--the software is just piped in through an Internet connection.

[Another major pain point for small and midsize businesses? SMBs Struggle To Corral Business Intelligence Data.]

Symantec's Small Business Virtualization Poll showed that SMBs clearly get virtualization. Asked what benefits they hope to receive from virtualization, these were the results: Lower capital expenses (70% of respondents); lower operating expenses (68%); use fewer servers for the same number of applications (67%); improve scalability of servers (65%); quicker deployment of new virtual servers (64%)--in all, 11 benefits were identified by those polled.

But when asked to list impediments or complications of going virtual, a number of issues came to mind. Symantec, whose main businesses are security and compliance, server and storage management, and consumer computer security, found gaps in SMB virtualization security, too.

Just 15% of SMB respondents said they always back up their virtualized servers, while 23% either back them up infrequently or not at all. When asked why not, 53% cited budget issues, while 23% cited inadequate staff.

And of the respondents who said they considered their virtual servers to be "somewhat" or "completely" secured, 78% have no antivirus software installed, 48% don't have a firewall, and 74% lack any kind of endpoint protection.

Larger IT systems presumably have better designed, more efficient, and better secured virtualized environments, but they're not without their own challenges. The InformationWeek article Virtualization Security Checklist details four important security measures to implement and maintain, while another article, Virtualization Vs. Networking, notes that while virtualization makes for remarkably more efficient use of servers, the additional data traffic impacts the network, which is the next thing that needs to be virtualized. That's the same for SMBs as for enterprises.

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