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Are your Backup Tools Build for Your Virtualized Environment?

Whether your environment is physical or virtual, good backups are necessary. The traditional backup methods used in physical environments are also usable in virtual environments. However, there are other options that are more efficient and faster for backing up the virtual machine. A product called Consolidated Backup has been made VMWare in VI3 which introduces a new method of backing up ESX hosts.

With consolidated backup, a proxy server is leveraged to back up virtual disks to reduce the load on the virtual machine and provide backups without a network connection. Due to the snapshot abilities and unique architecture, virtual environments give room for different backup methods. When a snapshot of a virtual machine’s virtual disk is taken, backups can occur without the files getting modified while it is being backed up. Some third-party backup products are also particularly made for ESX hosts which are recommended for better efficiency, integration and backup speed.

Below are different methods of backup tools that can be used for your virtual backup:

Traditional Backups

In this case, the guest operating system has a backup agent installed on it. With this, the backup system and the agent have to communicate to back up files on the server. It is easy to deploy as many virtual environments already have this method. This means that if your backup tools are traditional, you can simply deploy this for your virtual environment. Also, using traditional backup tools does not require any additional software and there are also no process changes.

Traditional backups, however, will cause a lot of resource usage on the host systems. It is also not as fast as other methods and has no bare-metal restores.

Backup scripts

With this tool, the process involves taking a snapshot of a virtual machine and copying the machine’s large VMDK to another storage device. This is where it is backed up to tape or left for use in a case file or when the VM has to be restored. The scripts usually run in the ESX service console and are able to use the Perl language or any other scripting method, e.g. Bash which is supported by ESX. This method is also very easy to deploy and there is no additional software needed to complete the process. It is also great for whole virtual machine Image restores (bare metal). There are some setbacks to this method. Usually, individual file restores are difficult and need access to the ESX service console. Sometimes, backup scripts are slower and may not be compatible with ESXi.

VMWare Consolidated Backup

This is a windows-based app that gives a centralized backup facility to back up virtual machines through a proxy server without modifying the virtual machine itself. This is a valid alternative to traditional agent-based methods and was originally designed for virtual environments to reduce the impact of the host server during backup operations. It eliminates the need for a software backup agent to be installed on every virtual machine to be backed up. It is also supported by most major backup software such as Symantec, NetBackup and Backup exec, CA Arcserve, CommVault Simpana, etc.

Third-party VI3-specific backup products.

Many other third-party products have been developed for virtual environments and proved a better alternative to traditional backup methods. These provide more options and have greater flexibility when backing up and restoring the virtual machine. All of these products work by copying virtual disks over the networks to a destination disk-based storage device (Local, SAN, NFS, iSCSI, CIFS) to a source datastore. Moreso, many of these products integrate with VCB and can do all forms of backups.

A lot of companies do not fully grasp Hyper-V backup and replication, so they commit the mistake of thinking that replica is a replacement for backup,  however, and do not use it appropriately. Others even skip it entirely when it could be useful, therefore it is advised that backups should be placed on a storage device that is either mobile or remote. Nakivo backups and replication could take care of all your Hyper-V replication and help you navigate.

Unfortunately, many do not completely understand what Hyper-V Replica (HVR) is best suited for and, consequently, Take a few moments to think about what it can really do and what issues would best be solved with another tool.

For maximum efficacy, backups should be placed on storage that is mobile or remote and can be taken offline. Replica hosts must be connected at all times for HVR to provide its maximum value. A backup must have some rotation capability so that it can maintain multiple copies. HVR does have some multi-copy functionality for its data, but not for the virtual machine components. Backup works best with a fairly long historical chain. Replica works best with a fairly short historical chain.

The primary difference between HVR and backup is that HVR data is potentially live at any time. Backup should be in a read-only state unless it is being overwritten by a new backup. Backup should, ideally, have some rotation methodology in which at least two distinct, unrelated copies exist. Replica can do something similar by specifying a second target for the same replica – this is called Extended Replica. However, this secondary replica is also always ready to be brought online at any time and is therefore susceptible to the same sorts of occurrences as the primary. These include storage failure, corruption transmitted from the source, data tampering, and other issues that do not impact offline media.

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