Disaster Recovery is a Real Challenge for Virtual Machines

One of the advantages of virtual machines (VM) is that it’s easy to make copies and start them up on another physical server. In theory, that should make disaster recovery (DR) simpler. In reality, VMs can simplify disaster recovery, but they also introduce some new DR challenges.

Keeping Track of Machines

One of the big differences between the physical world and the virtual world is that the physical world is slow to change. Adding new servers is often a big effort, with lots of oversight and paperwork. Once in place, physical machines don’t move around.

That’s not true when it comes to VMs. VMs are easy to start up; you may even offer self-service. They’re also easy to move from physical box to physical box. That means that just keeping track of VMs, where they’re running, and what’s running in them is the first challenge to DR. If you don’t know what you have, you can’t make sure it’s protected.

Backups May Not Work Well

Before VMs were widely used, it was common to dedicate a physical server to a single business application. Now, you may dedicate a VM to an application while running multiple VMs on a single server. This means that if you schedule backups based on low utilization within the VM, you may negatively impact the performance of other VMs running on that same server.

You Need to Be Able to Recover Files, Not Just VMs

If you need to restore an entire server that’s down, a copy of a virtual machine makes that easy. But while restoring an entire server is important, it may not be typical. Recovery commonly requires restoring specific files or directories, not an entire machine. VM backups don’t necessarily support that kind of itemized recovery.

Virtual Machines Aren’t Standalone

While VMs simulate a physical server, the reality is that they are software. And not only are VMs software, they aren’t independent applications. VMs run in a hypervisor. Recovering in a virtual environment requires backing up the hypervisor and its configuration as well as the individual virtual machine files.

Different Hypervisors May Need Different Solutions

Backup solutions that work for one hypervisor may not work for another. Since many organizations use multiple hypervisors, they may need multiple backup and DR strategies.

DR Plans are Hard to Keep Up to Date

Using VMs doesn’t eliminate the need for writing a DR plan and testing it to make sure it’s effective. Because VMs can move to different physical servers and are hard to track, it’s also hard to keep a DR plan up to date with the necessary details.

Get help creating an effective DR solution from Prescient Solutions. We bring more than 20 years of IT expertise to our IT consulting services in Chicago and Schaumburg. Contact us to learn how to implement and manage DR for your virtual machines.

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