How to avoid common pitfalls in virtual machine backup

Virtualization has been IT industry hot topic and it will be as it is until next few years. Good news is most of the fortune companies already adopted into it and others are following it. Along with every solution there will be new problems and concerns and Virtualization is no difference over there. In this article we’re going to look into some of the common pitfalls and drawback on virtualization protections and how to avoid them.

One of the main issues for the network admins is losing the control of virtual machine creation and keeping a track of it. Few years back we used to allocate physical server for each and every major service and we can identify them easily. Things have been drastically change when it comes to virtualization due to the flexibility of creating Virtual machines. In virtualization world we call this as “VM Sprawl” This out of control issue is a major issue when it comes to Virtual machines backup as well. So one key factor is to have a clear idea of your virtualization environment and tracking every VPC to identify which servers are critical.

Do I backup data inside the Virtual machine or do I backup the entire VHD files along with the host backup? Most of the traditional backup software has given concern of host level backup and we need to rethink of applying such solution to virtualization environment. This is simply due to the technical maturity as well as licensing cost. There will be scenarios having entire guest machine backup will be acceptable (Eg: Application server) but in certain cases you’ll need to install an agent to virtual PC itself and backup data if you require individual item restore (Eg: File server, E-mail server…etc) So you’ll always need to check with your backup software vendor about their software capability. Good news is Microsoft DPM, Symantec NetBackup, Backup Exec, CA Arcserve are now mature enough for this. (There will be lot more solutions, but I’m simply cannot test them all J ) Simply most of the backup software allow full backup of VHD and granular level restore from that file. This will greatly eliminate the backup window growth.

Which media to use in Backup? Tape or Disk? Industry is moving toward to disk based backup methods considering the speedy backup and recovery window times. But if companies have already invested on Tape solutions the best way is to have a balance with both methods. Having disk based backup initially and then moving data to tape drives for archival purpose. What you should really do is to formulate a disk and tape strategy based on data management objectives and policies.  A few considerations:

  • Recovery time objectives. (RTO)/Recovery Point Objectives (RPO).  Disk is typically faster for recovery.
  • Archiving requirements.  Tape is the most common archive medium.
  • Service Level Agreements (SLAs).  What is IT obligated to deliver to customers?
  • Existing hardware investments, as well as budget.

Apart from that you should consider about data de-duplication technologies which help you to reduce the storage requirements for your backup. Virtualization has given itself more advantages to companies and same time some challenges to the administrators. Most of these challenges cannot be addressed by traditional solutions hence new innovative solutions need to be considered.

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