Virtualization is an umbrella term for virtualized hardware and software. Online backup companies have used storage virtualization creatively and effectively to define shared public data storage servers that allow multiple users share the same storage hardware with virtual privacy. This has created economies of scale and made expensive IT infrastructure affordable to the budget constrained small or medium businesses.

Storage virtualization has also freed data from the shackles of operating systems, application interfaces and presentation layers and made it accessible anywhere, anytime from any type of machine. End users accessing data from the virtual storage server experience no difficulty as the interface makes the source machine appear like another desktop or hard drive from which they can drag and drop copies of data on to their own machines. During disaster recovery, any kind of machine with an entirely different configuration, can be used to download and restore data from the remote storage server.

The storage virtualization, therefore, comes with a number of advantages. First, it is possible to scale up data store requirements on demand without huge investments in hardware infrastructure. Second, data can be centralized for ease of data management and control of access. Third, the cost of managing applications and data stores is significantly reduced. Fourth, virtualization improves data security and ensures that data is taken offsite immediately or at pre-defined intervals as a safeguard against disaster. Fifth, the worries regarding incompatibilities between application systems can be set aside as data can be downloaded and copied into any kind of machine with any kind of software or hardware configuration. Finally, virtualization can improve business performance as mobile employees too, can have access to the data via a simple web interface.

However, on the flip side is the truth that virtualization makes for abstraction. IT managers have to learn whole new tricks to manage the newly created virtual storage machines over which even they have only remote control. Increasing abstraction can make it harder for the IT personnel to manage their environment. The benefits can therefore become very elusive. Software configurations can assume large importance and security could be compromised by persons with the right know-how.

Nevertheless, storage virtualization has been around for a decade or more now and it is regarded as a solved problem. Online backup companies implementing storage virtualization have come to realize that customers are not interested in “in band” and “out of band” virtualization offers. They are concerned with efficacy of snapshots, mirroring and replication and the process of backing up and protecting data. The philosophy of virtualization has been accepted and features such as performance and reliability hold attention. Storage virtualization is becoming main stream and the functioning of every component in the storage network is gaining focus. Storage policies now include virtual storage and data life cycle management issues associated with it. In short, storage virtualization is here to stay and is expected to get more and more sophisticated with use and user demand for effective services.