SMBs plan to adopt server virtualization at a much faster pace than their enterprise peers this year, according to the 2012 Global Disaster Recovery Index from Acronis, a provider of disaster recovery/data protection technology for SMBs. However, potential security risks related to server virtualization, as well as SMB trends relating to cloud computing, offsite backup strategy and downtime, present very tangible opportunities for MSPs.

The Disaster Recovery Index, based on a global survey of 6,000 SMBs by Ponemon Institute, finds that virtual server adoption among SMBs will increase by 21 percent this year, compared to a 14 percent increase among enterprises predicted in a recent Gartner report. Almost four in 10 (38 percent) SMBs expect to have more than half their servers virtualized by the end of this year, with factors such as increased efficiency, flexibility and speed, as well as cost savings, driving SMB virtualization adoption.

But behind all the SMB server virtualization optimism are some sobering statistics. The index shows that 33 percent of SMBs do not back up virtual servers as often as physical ones, and only 37 percent back them up daily.

Compounding this generally poor backup of virtual servers by SMBs are figures showing that 23 percent of SMBs lack an offsite backup strategy, while more than four in 10 (42 percent) use manual backup procedures such as tape or disk, as opposed to automated backup. Only one-fifth (21 percent) of SMBs back up to the cloud. The cloud only represents 19 percent of the total global SMB IT infrastructure, although one in four SMBs (26 percent) say their infrastructure will be more than half cloud-based by the end of the year.

This relative infrequency of SMB reliance on the cloud stems at least partially from high levels of distrust in the cloud’s ability to adequately handle disaster recovery (56 percent), security risks (39 percent) and workload/complexity (33 percent).

MSPs Offer Concrete Answers

Given the patchwork preparations so many SMBs have taken to prevent and recover from data disasters, it is not surprising that 86 percent of SMBs experienced one or more days of downtime in 2011, at an average daily cost of more than $360,000. For an SMB, losing this much money in a short period of time can be catastrophic. So what can MSPs do to help SMBs with their disaster recovery issues?

First and foremost, MSPs should provide their SMB clients with some basic education. In today’s business and IT environment, tape- and disk-based backup is laughably antiquated and not up to the task of effectively storing and retrieving the volumes of complex data even the smallest businesses now generate. Furthermore, although the cloud is not the best solution to every problem and does not always perform as advertised, its flexibility, scalability and durability all make it an attractive option for many SMB data storage and recovery needs.

Once their SMB clients have been “shown the light,” MSPs can then focus on providing them with tailored and scaled managed services to handle important tasks like virtual server backup, cloud implementation, and general data recovery, storage and security. When a single failure can cost a cash-strapped small business $360,000 a day, MSPs have some pretty persuasive data to back up their sales pitches.