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Data Loss in Virtual Environments – Human Factor a Major Player

data loss

Data is being lost in virtualized environments due to poor work habits, and the situation has not improved in the past 10 years.

After almost a decade of data recovery for virtual platforms, Kroll Ontrack, a provider of data recovery and ediscovery, sees an ongoing spread of computer virtualization in companies. Almost every company’s IT environment now uses virtualization in some way. Virtualization is proven to have many benefits, such as reduced hardware and energy costs, as well as requiring less IT administration time. 10 years ago, servers were the first to be virtualized, but now there are new developments in the market, such as virtualized desktops (VDI), cloud environments and virtualized networking. However, the past years have shown that systems with virtualization are still far from being immune to data loss, especially when users are lacking knowledge and making poor decisions.

Since 2008, when Kroll Ontrack began offering data recovery for virtual platforms, it has received a continually increasing amount of data recovery projects from systems with some form of virtualization. Kroll Ontrack used analysis and insights from this internal database of data recoveries to publish the most common problems that lead to data loss in virtualized systems over the past decade.

This year, Kroll Ontrack data recovery engineers once again conducted an internal analysis of the most common data loss reasons in virtual systems like VMware and HyperV that were seen in real data recovery projects in Kroll Ontrack´s worldwide data recovery labs. According to these figures, the five categories for data loss in virtual systems in 2016 were:

  • Deleted VMs (Virtual Machines) (40%)
  • Hardware failures (30 %)
  • Migration Failures (10%)
  • Snapshots gone wrong (10%)
  • Other (10%)

What is surprising with these results is that the two main reasons that engineers have identified as the primary causes of data loss in virtualized environments only differs slightly from the figures that were found seven years ago. In 2010, hardware/RAID failures were the reason for 40% of all data losses in virtual systems, while deleted virtual disks and/or snapshots totaled 36%. These figures clearly show that the most common reasons remained almost the same. What has become less a factor over the years is formatting and reinstallation problems that lead to data loss. While this accounted for 11% of all cases in 2012, the figure is now just one of the many reasons combined in the 10% of “other reasons.”

“Virtualization is a highly complex technology,” says Dave Logue of Kroll Ontrack. “What has changed over the last few years is not just the technology, but the better user experience, which includes a new interface and administration panels. For example, migrating hundreds or thousands of VMs from one storage platform to another has become easier. In many cases, the user isn’t aware of the impact that they are making. Because what happens underneath the interface is hidden to the user, they may not be aware of any problems. Once the problem is identified, the user may attempt to fix it based on symptoms versus the underlying issue. In many cases, a data loss cannot simply be solved by using the system’s own recovery tools. It is far better to stay calm and contact a professional data recovery service provider.”

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