Data protection in virtualized environments

Virtualized environments offer significant benefits for the enterprise, but they must be managed correctly.

Along with cloud computing, data centers and managed services, virtualization is one of the most buzzed-about disruptive technologies in the enterprise. Virtualization combines with some or all of these trending innovations to relieve growing pressure on system hardware, engage in software-defined networking and make it easier for businesses to become more agile through outsourcing. It does offer many advantages to businesses, particularly where management of mission-critical hardware and support systems is concerned, but there are still some very real challenges that organizations must keep in mind when integrating virtualization services into their business models.

One commonly held misconception is that virtualization is by itself a panacea for data loss. While virtualization services can improve upon information loss prevention efforts, they are not automatically going to stop data disappearance. One recent survey found that 80 percent of respondents believed that they were not at risk of data loss when they used virtual environments to store their data. However, 40 percent of storage virtualizers also admitted that they experienced data loss. As more businesses convert to partial or complete virtual storage of their information, it's crucial that virtualization represents a step up from traditional methods.

"It is erroneous to believe virtual environments are inherently safer or at less risk for data loss than other storage mediums," one researcher stated. "Virtual data loss can result from a range of causes, including file-system corruption, deleted virtual machines, internal virtual disk corruption, RAID, and other storage and server hardware failures, and deleted or corrupt files contained within virtualized storage systems."

In fact, data loss in a virtualized environment can be more damaging than information leaked from a traditional one, as higher volumes of data are stored together in virtualization.

Stopping data loss in virtualization
Companies must take action to realize the full potential of virtualization for protecting their data. It is through support solutions leveraged in virtualized environments that make the difference between lingering data dissipation and actual loss prevention. Virtualized desktop tools deployed on existing hardware can establish high-performance, high-security and high-quality computing capacity in a lean, agile physical system. Computer monitoring software enables IT to better manage workstations and become immediately aware of any user, network or system problems that could lead to data loss. System restart and restore solutions can be deployed to lock down the data and applications that an organization actually wants to protect and deliver an otherwise fresh system on startup. These support tools can eliminate much of the clutter or potential malicious elements that can contribute to data loss in a virtualized environment.

One tech expert recently profiled Faronics' Deep Freeze as a tool that optimizes IT management and digital workstation functionality in next-gen virtualized environments. Deep Freeze creates a nonpersistent desktop, or an interface that is renewed back to the original lock point every time a user logs in.

"Because of this nonpersistent functionality, Deep Freeze can basically provide virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) functionality without actually deploying VDI," the tech expert wrote.

In the process of freezing a machine, Deep Freeze creates a virtual file table that exists apart from the system's actual file table, enabling changes made to the system during operation to be discarded so the system starts fresh upon reboot. This technique alleviates many of the problems that can contribute to data loss such as system crashes and inadvertent deletions. The system restore and recovery technology can then be centrally managed by an IT professional, who can decide to thaw the system to make updates or changes and lock it again when it is in use by employees. Ultimately, Deep Freeze is a solution that satisfies next-generation demands wrought by virtualization and cloud computing.

"[I]f nonpersistence is your primary goal for desktop virtualization, you may have all you need with Deep Freeze," according to the tech expert.

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.