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Better Backups of Virtual Data

by on May 18, 2010

Virtualization has produced many benefits for corporate data centers, but it’s also produced some challenges. One of those challenges is how to protect the data on the new crop of virtual servers while maintaining their high availability to users.

Virtual_server The way to protect data, of course, is to back it up. Traditional backup best practices work with virtual machines. You can install a backup agent on a VM, point its files to a backup server, then transfer the data to tape or disk. The problem with that approach is that it’s I/O intensive and can hurt network performance.

Sending snapshots of a VM’s state at a moment in time to a shared storage system, or SAN, instead of to a single server may address the network congestion problem, but some software requires a VM to be paused while creating the snapshot, which will impact availability.

Stephen J. Bigelow, at TechTarget, recommends using tools specifically designed for backing up VMs as a way to eliminate hassles arising from the process.

Virtual data backup tools can capture an entire VM state quickly and without interrupting availability. In the event of a data mishap, a prior state can be reloaded from wherever it’s stored to the VM with minimal data loss.

If there’s a hardware fault, the state can be sent to a new server without the restraints of non-virtualized backups which require installation on identical hardware–and even then, restoration isn’t guaranteed.

Using specialized tools, Bigelow writes, “[A] VM can easily be copied from a SAN to another local storage system for redundancy, copied remotely to a disaster recovery (DR) storage location, or even offloaded from a SAN to a tape with no real performance impact on virtual servers.”

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