5 Tips for Managing Backup and Disaster Recovery in Virtual Environments

backup In January, I spoke to Acronis's Seth Goodling about his company's launch of the Global Disaster Recovery Index, a barometer that measures IT managers’ confidence in their backup and recovery operations. You can find the write-up of that conversation here. But now Acronis has issued a warning to small and midsized businesses (SMBs) worldwide.

The warning stems from further findings of the index, revealing that 73 percent of SMBs worldwide agree that virtualization has either completely or partially changed the way the business manages its backup and disaster recovery. And while most SMBs plan to increase their virtualization and cloud usage in 2011, 68 percent revealed that backing up and moving data between physical, virtual, and cloud environment is their greatest IT challenge.

"The introduction of server and workstation virtualization was not about backup," explains Goodling, "it was largely driven by cost and consolidation. As we progress into widespread virtualization adoption, IT managers are learning that traditional physical server backup solutions are inadequate for virtual machine backup, and maintaining separate backup strategies for physical and virtual confuses the backup scenario even more."

He goes on: "Many traditional backups are agent-based, which means that an application is required and consumes precious virtual machine processing resources. Simultaneous initiation of agent-based backups can cause serious virtual machine disruptions, including total failure of the underlying physical host. The next phase of virtualization has to include backup best practices leveraged for a hybrid environment, a central solution for all environments”

In that spirit, Acronis offers five recommendations for realizing the full benefits of virtualization:

  1. To close the loop on virtualization efforts, a backup and disaster recovery strategy as robust as that deployed for physical servers is required for all VMs, especially if the VM supports a production application.
  2. To provide the lowest VM Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and the fastest Recovery Time Objective (RTO), each VM should be independently backed up and frequently refreshed. This is to ensure that the time difference between the last backup and the current production server state is as small as possible.
  3. Image-based backups provide quick recovery in a cloud environment. Image-based recovery restores the entire VM, including the guest OS and configuration settings. File- or block-based backups only restore data and require the entire VM to be configured and imported back to the cloud before the data can be restored. Avoid this by taking an entire VM system image and using it as a warm VM standby.
  4. Use virtual server backup technology that was designed as agentless from the start. Instead of requiring that each VM have a backup agent or that an expensive proxy server with snapshot space be provided for backup, some software only requires one agent per physical host that can support all the virtual servers on the host.
  5. The same rules apply to virtual as physical. If you back up your physical data to the cloud, why not back up your VMs to take advantage of offsite backup for less?

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